FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Wednesday will be exactly one month from GFL Environmental’s July 1 start date as Fort Wayne’s new trash and recycling hauler.
That also means there’s one more month of potential late or missed pickups by Red River Waste Solutions.
As the Texas-based company’s time in Fort Wayne winds down, a Red River driver tells WANE 15’s Rex Smith that the morale of the remaining drivers is very low.
The driver wished to remain anonymous in order to avoid getting in any sort of trouble, but he said the Red River trucks and equipment are not good enough, and that there are plenty of employees who don’t seem to care about their job.
Additionally, the driver said they want Fort Wayne residents to know that the Red River employees who do show up to collect waste and recyclables each day are good people who are trying to do the best they can in order to support their families.
Mayor Tom Henry’s office shared this update regarding trash and recycling pickup on Tuesday:
“The City of Fort Wayne Solid Waste Department is doing its best to assist Red River to maintain operational levels for garbage and recycling collection. We continue to utilize City staff to assist with the routes and misses that Red River is unable to service with their lower staffing levels and higher tonnage in recent weeks.
Today, crews are finishing garbage collection in Thursday and Friday routes and hope to move to Monday routes later today. Recycling collection is experiencing longer delays. Residents who were scheduled to have recycling collected last week likely won’t have those materials collected until their next regularly scheduled pickup day next week. Community recycling drop-off sites can be found at this link – https://acwastewatcher.org/programs/community-recycling-drop-off-sites. With this being a holiday week in recognition of Memorial Day, scheduled collections were set to be a day later this entire week.
We ask that residents continue to set out garbage and recycling materials the night before their regularly scheduled day of pickup. We will do our best to provide the collection service as close to their regular day as possible. As often as possible, crews are collecting garbage and recyclables in the evenings and on weekends.
It’s possible that delays could continue until GFL Environmental USA takes over the collection service on July 1.
The City apologizes for the inconvenience during this transition period and thanks the residents of Fort Wayne for their continued patience and understanding.”
“July 1 couldn’t get here soon enough for everybody,” Fort Wayne’s Director of Public Works Shan Gunawardena said.
Gunawardena told WANE 15 the city would love for GFL Environmental to start earlier than July 1, but the company is still working to get its operation fully prepared to go.
While Gunawardena believes GFL has exceeded the number of drivers they’ll need, he said the company wants to make sure it does a good job from the moment its trucks hit the streets.
“They don’t want to be branded as a bad performer before they even get underway with their contract,” Gunawardena said.
There are a number of Red River drivers who will transition to GFL once July hits, but there haven’t been many drivers who’ve taken advantage of bonuses offered by the company to stay on through the end of June, according to Gunawardena.
“It’s kind of frustrating on our part, too, because many of the drivers don’t want to take advantage of that,” Gunawardena said. “They’d rather take time off. I’m sure several of these drivers, even though they’re going to be working for GFL, they’ve probably got some time off that they want to use before they transition.”
Gunawardena said city administration is also looking at potential bonuses that could be offered to Red River drivers if they stay on and come to work every day.
He told WANE 15 that the city has currently deployed six trucks to pick up Red River misses with an additional three trucks they’ve leased that they hope to have out on the streets as early as Wednesday.
Gunawardena said four of the people driving these city-leased trucks are seasonal truck drivers the city hired, two of them are from the solid waste department, and the rest are pulled from bigger departments like the street department in order to not hinder day-to-day operations.
The city is paying overtime to its own employees when they are out picking up garbage and recycling after regular work hours have concluded.
Gunawardena didn’t have an exact figure on how much that’s costing the city, but he said it is positive that the extra expenses from picking up trash will be saved once GFL takes over.
In the meantime, Gunawardena and Mayor Henry’s office are asking for patience. Gunawardena said the 311 call center has been inundated with calls about missed pickups which is taking away from the operators’ other responsibilities.
He asks for folks to limit those calls for the next month and added that the solid waste department is aware when there are misses, especially if an entire street or neighborhood is missed.
“Give us a couple of days to get in there and service your garbage,” Gunawardena said.
He looks forward to GFL stepping in. Gunawardena is confident the company will step in and handle the job.
“I think I’m more confident in GFL’s ability to handle whatever is going to happen than I am with anybody else at this point,” He said.