NBC2 Investigates: Is Cape Coral's trash pick-up improving?

Posted: Sep 04, 2018 6:44 PM -04:00 Updated:

There are a few things that city and county governments spend taxpayer money on that get noticed on a regular basis.

Roads are one of those ticket items. So is running water.

For Cape Coral residents, trash pickup falls into that category as well.


RELATED: Waste Pro leaving residents down in the dumps


In June, several homeowners have voiced their frustrations with the company that holds the Cape Coral contract, Waste Pro.

Resident Gregory Lampson had a typical experience.

"We called Waste Pro a week ago Saturday. They said, 'Put it out Monday night and we'll come and get it between Tuesday, Wednesday, by the latest Thursday,'" he recalled.

A week later, his garbage was still curbside.

So, is the situation in Cape Coral any worse than anywhere else in Lee County?

Records of complaints from Lee County, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral for January from July reveal that Cape is an outlier, and not a good one.

Lee County contracts with Advanced Disposal and has a contract with Bonita Springs and the Village of Estero to cover their municipal solid waste contract. The county received 346 complaints from residents.

Fort Myers runs its own trash pickup service and had 429 complaints through the first half of 2018.

Cape Coral, by far, received the most complaints regarding their contracted waste collection company. The city received 829 complaints between January and July.

Both Lee County and Cape Coral recommend customers call the garbage collection contractors first, so it is unlikely that the numbers above represent all the complaints.

Waste Pro spokesperson and liaison Bill Jones declined to comment.

Cape Coral Public Works Director Paul Clinghan did, however, provide a status update on how Waste Pro is performing.

"Waste Pro has done a very good job up until this spike in the last few months," Clinghan said.

The spike Clinghan is referring to started in May, then peaked in July when the city received 203 complaints in one month. The numbers have since dipped back down to 58 complaints in August.

Clinghan said the city made it abundantly clear the problem needed to be addressed. Their contract allows the city to penalize Waste Pro for not performing services adequately.

"We even met with the vice president of Waste Pro and basically said they got to do better," Clinghan said.

When asked if the city had been close to penalizing Waste Pro, Clinghan said, "We were definitely considering it and in the contract they have the opportunity to make things right and they have turned it around."

According to Clinghan, and previous interviews with Waste Pro, the problem was a shortage of drivers and trucks. An industry insider said there is a nationwide shortage of CDL drivers and that it's not just a Waste Pro issue. Since the July spike, Clinghan said Waste Pro has fixed its driver shortage and increased the number of trucks for bulk pickup items from two to five.

"It's come down significantly in July and August and Waste Pro has put more trucks on the road. They had a driver shortage so they've turned it around and things have improved," Clinghan said.

Some residents have looked back fondly to the days of a different garbage contractor, Waste Management.

In 2010, several residents got in front of the city council to ask that they keep Waste Management as their contractor. But councilors eventually voted in favor of switching to Waste Pro, largely because, at the time, it would save a dollar a month per resident on average.

According to data released by the City of Cape Coral, city residents still pay the lowest rate for solid waste services of any comparable community in Lee County.

Clinghan said that cost is a major factor, but the service they provide to their customers is a critical element too.

The Waste Pro contract expires in September 2020, and the city has to notify the company if it doesn't plan to renew. That is required to happen 12 to 18 months before the expiration.

Clinghan's office would be partially responsible for recommending to the city manager and city councilors whether to continue with Waste Pro.

Asked if he would make a recommendation right now, Clinghan said, "Right now, Waste Pro's improved but ultimately that will be councils' decision if they want to terminate and go out to bid again."

No shortage of blame falls on residents too. Clinghan said that many people are not following the instructions for pickup. Some people empty the contents of their home when moving and expect Waste Pro to pick it up.

"That is part of it, we're trying to do is an education program that [teaches people] what's compliant and what isn't," Clinghan said.

Residents will always get another chance. Whether Waste Pro will remains to be seen.

 

 

© Copyright 2018 WBBH/WZVN (Waterman Broadcasting). All rights reserved.