Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said Tuesday the city was committed to its trash and recycling contractor and said it would not try to default from its contract with Red River Waste Solutions despite a pattern of missed collections around the city since it took over this year.

Henry added that the city was “demanding more from Red River,” though.

In a press conference at Citizens Square, Henry gathered with City Councilman Tom Didier, Public Works officials and Red River Waste Solutions representatives to provide an update on trash and recycling efforts in the city and steps being taken to improve. He said the city would not pursue a declaration of material default at this time against Red River because it has not met the threshold for a material default.

As it forges ahead, Henry said changes must happen.

“We expect more and are demanding more from Red River,” said Henry. “We’re focused on and committed to insuring Red River provides the best and most reliable services possible. I understand the frustration that many people are feeling right now.” 

The city has fined Red River $171,750 in the nearly 9 months it has handle trash and recycling collection in Fort Wayne. Most recently, the city fined Red River $92,800 in June for failing to meeting benchmarks laid out in its contract.  

The city said fines for July “haven’t been finalized.”

There is a plan to improve collections, officials said Tuesday. Red River said Tuesday, they are excited to work so closely with the city.

“For the mayor to allow his staff to work in that level of detail with us is a commitment we take very seriously,” said Red River Vice President of Business Development and Government Affairs Steve Smith. “So we have a commitment to the staff here in the city that we’re going to follow through with those things.”

Red River, which has blamed driver shortages on missed collections in the past, has reportedly  hired additional drivers and a full-time recruiter to attract and retain even more drivers. The company said it has also partnered with Ivy Tech Community College and Northeast Indiana Works to recruit potential employees, and exploring using city employees pr vendors to assist with collections as-needed.  

Red River said it has also analyzed route and collection date to enhance efficiencies.

Meanwhile, the city council passed a resolution that declared Red River in breach of its contract with the city.

The resolution does not terminate the contract, though.

“You know, I think we just needed to, quite literally, lay down the law and let the administration know that the people of Fort Wayne believe there has been a material breach of contract,” said City Councilman Michael Barranda. “And that the administration should move forward with that in mind.”

It was also revealed there is no breach of contract language in the contract itself which has the city and Red River on two different pages.

“I mean we saw Red River believe that it’s almost abandoning the contract in total for them to constitute a breach and that’s a pretty far stretch from where we were tonight that’s for sure,” Barranda said.

Tracking the number of misses Red  River has accumulated has not been entirely accurate.

Often times, one person will call 311 to report an entire neighborhood had been missed, but since it was only one phone call, it would only count as one miss, when in reality, 400 people may have been missed.

Because of this, multiple council members encouraged all residents to call 311 when their trash is missed so that calls more accurately measure the number of misses.  

“Meeting basic needs of our residents and neighborhoods is critical to Fort Wayne’s success,” said Mayor Henry in regards to the city’s trash pickup. “We’re going to make this right.

“By working together, we can make a meaningful difference and restore the public’s trust in the garbage and recycling process in our city.”