City Council not pleased with Red River ‘sob stories’

Local News

Trash trouble was once again up for discussion at a Fort Wayne City Council meeting, Tuesday night.

City Council members were disappointed at the conclusion of Tuesday night’s meeting because they were presented with “sob stories” instead of solutions, according to 2nd district councilman Russ Jehl.

“Tonight Red River had the opportunity to buy a lot of good will with the rate payers and chose to remain a villain,” said Jehl after the meeting.

Red River blamed most of the recent trash collection problems on a driver shortage, but council members were more interested in how Red River was going to fix the problems.

Red River Waste Solutions has been under contract with the city for nearly 6 months and already there have been more than 17,000 calls to 311 about trash pickup problems.

However, company officials said they have made significant improvements to service over the last month.

Red River has been taking heat from customer since the company took over trash collection January 1. Councilman Geoff Paddock said he has fielded dozens of complaints regarding missed pickups, trash left in the streets and damaged cans.

“Trash is a basic service of city government,” said Paddock.”Folks expect that. They expect it to be done well and on time.”

Red River blamed bad weather and holidays for missed pickups last winter. Now, the company is trying to keep up with additional waste that comes as a result of yard work during the warmer months, according to Spokesman Steve Smith.

“Sometimes we think it’s overly simplified,” he said. “It looks pretty easy right? You just come by the house, put the trash in the truck, and move on. But there’s a lot of logistics that goes into it.

Smith said the company has recently changed local management and has shifted its focus to hiring and training to help alleviate the pickup problems. As a result, Smith said time per stops are getting lower and he believes services are improving rapidly.

However, a record of complaints to the city’s 311 for trash collection seem to tell a different story. Newschannel 15 has obtained a record of complaints over the last six months from City Spokesman John Perlich.

  • Jan. – 5,122
  • Feb. – 2,091
  • Mar. – 2,390
  • Apr. – 2,169
  • May – 3,612
  • June 1st -15th – 2,280

Just last week, the city fined Red River Waste Solution $65,000 for breach of contract in April and May. According to Perlich, that money will go to the Solid Waste department to reduce or alleviate any future increases for services.

Councilman Jehl hopes to use the money from those fines to possibly hire an attorney, look into hiring a different company or give some kind of rebate to frustrated residents.

Councilman Paddock said if the trash problems are not resolved the city will have the opportunity to send out a new bid and hire another company.

“You know folks are watching this,” said Paddock. “I think they’re ready to give the company a second chance but if we have this problem again then I think we’re going to have to take some serious action.”

Councilman John Crawford wants Red River to layout benchmarks so the council can keep track of the progress Red River promises to make. Crawford wanted to see things like how many blocks did the company miss, how many misses were not resolved, what percentage of the routes were missed, and things of that nature.

Councilman Jehl was unhappy with the results of that discussion as well.

“They didn’t lay out any bench marks, said Jehl. “They came in with another set of sob stories, acting like they didn’t know that Memorial Day….they didn’t know that Memorial day was going to happen.”

Council President Tom Feistroffer expects Red River to make progress on its promises in the next month.

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