Problems with Red River extend well beyond Fort Wayne

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WANE) — It appears Red River Waste Solutions missing garbage pickups isn’t an issue limited to Fort Wayne.

The Texas-based company has trash and recycling contracts with Huntsville, Alabama, Elizabethtown and Hardin County, Kentucky, Del Rio, Texas, Fort Wayne, and areas of Tennessee, including Nashville.

Collection misses have been a problem in Fort Wayne since Red River took over the contract in 2018. Nashville can relate.

“I was elected in the spring of 2019 and trash pickup has definitely been one of the biggest issues that I hear about from my constituents,” said Delishia Porterfield, a Nashville, Tennessee Councilwoman. “It has been one of the top three issues with either missed pickups or late pickups.”

On Wednesday, WANE 15 reported that residents from a southwest Fort Wayne neighborhood are frustrated about Red River frequently collecting some house’s trash on their street, while not picking up others. One resident described the service as “hit and miss.”

These types of situations with the waste company sounded all too familiar to what Porterfield’s seen happening in Nashville.

“There have been incidents where half a street was picked up, the other half wasn’t. There are incidents where maybe just one house was skipped, and constituents saw their neighbors getting picked up and unfortunately, their home didn’t get picked up,” said Porterfield.

She said many residents in her district’s scheduled trash pick up day is Friday. However, there are times when the garbage hasn’t been picked up until Monday or Tuesday the following week.

“It has been extremely frustrating,” said Porterfield. “Because Fridays are pick up days, it got to the point where I dread it Fridays. I was just filled with so much anxiety every Friday, because I knew that I was going to receive dozens of messages.”

Red River filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a week ago. In the filing, the family-owned business, which services 310,000 households across 5 states, blamed the COVID-19 pandemic, a credit agreement and “operational challenges” for its financial struggles.

However, the numbers show the company’s problems began years before the COVID-19 pandemic. In Fort Wayne, in 2018 the company averaged 706 garbage misses per week, according to city spokesperson, John Perlich. In 2019, the average number of misses per week was 299.

Porterfield said she sympathizes with the hurdles Red River has faced with the pandemic, such as increased trash volumes and staffing shortages. However, like in Fort Wayne, Nashville was seeing problems well before COVID.

“The problem was definitely exacerbated during the pandemic, but I think because it was already such a big issue prior to the pandemic, it was a lot harder for people to show grace,” said Porterfield.

Porterfield said to remedy this issue, Nashville has reworked some of its routes.

“To make the routes, more concise and more direct,” said Porterfield. “We also had our city to take over some of those routes. So our city public works started taking over some of those routes so that Red River would have a smaller area, that they were responsible for.”

She said these changes have resulted in some improvements, however, it’s still common for to to get complaints.

Following Red River’s bankruptcy filing, Porterfield said the city of Nashville’s hope is with restructuring Red River will be able to better provide services to its residents. However, the city is still “keeping its options open.”

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