Councilmen Jehl and Didier call on mayor’s office for action on Red River, city responds

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FORT WAYNE (WANE) — Fort Wayne City Councilmen Russ Jehl (2nd Dist.) and Tom Didier (3rd Dist.) held a press conference Friday to propose steps for city administration to take regarding missed trash pickups by Red River Waste Solutions.

Below are the four requests from Jehl and Dider:

  1. Level with the Public- More than a month has passed since the Administration has given a substantive update on the garbage service issue.  The public needs hope that cannot come from a press release.  Does the Administration intend to make a switch in its service provider?
  2. Immediately hire an emergency provider- The City Administration should activate the emergency services clause in the garbage services contract and utilize a 3rd party provider to reduce the misses and be retained indefinitely.  Complacently allowing garbage to pile up around town is simply not necessary.
  3. Proactively reach out to Red River’s workers to stay- With Red River’s bankruptcy and public relations issues, they will almost certainly continue to lose drivers.  The Solid Waste Department should proactively lead in recruiting and retaining the current Red River drivers, appreciating their experience and value.  The drivers alone will get the Ratepayer through this present emergency and a future transition.  
  4. Create a real miss list- Solid Waste should create an effective “miss list” plan to identify and collect missed areas, that extends beyond overwhelming 311 with calls. Solid Waste, not Red River, is ultimately responsible for ensuring miss cycles and miss patterns do not occur.  

Jehl also responded to a WANE 15 report that Fort Wayne’s contract with Red River may have been resolved in a Texas courtroom. He said the lack of clarity on the situation is what is causing frustration for so many citizens.

“We don’t need all the details, but we need the administration to say whether we are plotting a new course, and from there people can extend patience,” Jehl said.

Fort Wayne city spokesman John Perlich told WANE 15 on Friday that the contract has not been resolved, and the city is limited on what it can do regarding Red River while the bankruptcy proceedings continue.

“To my understanding there isn’t any final resolution on this. My takeaway from the discussions I had with our attorney is that there was good dialogue. There wasn’t anything that was put into writing to say that there was anything official moving forward now or in the in the near future,” Perlich said. “For the time being, it’s still status quo in Fort Wayne in terms of who our provider is and the supplemental work that we’re doing, and making sure that we’re providing the best services we can because ultimately, it’s our job to provide those basic needs and basic services that our ratepayers deserve.”

Perlich said the city’s attorney can give city council a full explanation of where the proceedings stand with Red River at its Tuesday, January 18 meeting.

In response to Jehl and Dider’s call for transparency and action, Perlich pointed to several releases from the city of Fort Wayne about trash pickup around the holidays, and interviews Mayor Henry did with local media last week.

Regarding an emergency, third party trash collector, Perlich said the city has talked to other collectors, but said other communities are facing the same challenges Fort Wayne is facing: a worker shortage paired with workers out with COVID-19. He said another collector wouldn’t be able to send the workers or trucks to Fort Wayne to help.

“What we’re doing in the situation we have now is continuing to work with Red River,” Perlich said. “We appreciate the local workers they have that are picking up as much trash as possible each day. We’re supplementing that with our city crews, and in the near future through the bankruptcy proceeding, whenever that ends, there will be a clearer picture on where we’re going not only in the short term, but in the long term in terms of delivery services in Fort Wayne.”

Meanwhile, Jehl is still pushing for answers and action. He believes the people need to know what’s going on and if the city is committing to another provider once Red River’s contract is up.

“Because the administration continues to hide behind the skirts of the bankruptcy judge, the community is cynical,” Jehl said.

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