trash

A local Metro councilman was successful in his quest to officially warn his region’s trash pickup company to rectify poor service.

For almost four years, District 15 Councilman Jeff Syracuse has butted heads with officials at Red River Waste Solutions in an effort to push them to have consistent weekly trash pickup.

Syracuse crafted a resolution that was heard at a July 21 Metro council meeting, which asked Metro Legal and Metro Public Works to bring a definitive and lasting fix for regular trash pickup by Red River Waste Solutions. The contract was renewed two years ago.

He said the resolution was worded as a last resort before he planned to move to end the contract with the trash pickup company would go forth. He had eight co-sponsors, and Tuesday’s floor vote ended 34-4, which was successful, said Syracuse.

Trash pickup is free to those in District 15 and other districts, but ultimately citizens do pay for it via regular taxes allocations.

“It appears District 15 has the unfortunate designation of being the most negatively impacted, other council districts are impacted, as well, and I'm grateful for eight co-sponsors of my resolution,” said Syracuse.

His resolution basically requests the director of public works and the department of law to declare Red River Service Corp. and Red River Waste Solutions to be in breach of contract and to rebid Red River’s contracts for waste collection and to include stronger enforcement and penalty provisions if services don’t improve.

Syracuse explained the situation of inconsistent, and at times nonexistent, weekly trash pickup began to get worse when Metro expanded its urban city districts.

Citizens are told a particular day to put out their trash, but more and more often it was not picked up that day. It might be picked up the next day or not at all. Or sit at the curb over the weekend of Friday is the designated pickup day.

Syracuse said the company hand a hard time hiring and retaining drivers. Metro paid Red River in excess of $23 million since 2017 for waste collection, and Syracuse said they have not held up their end of the bargain, and he receives weekly complaints from constituents.

According to the resolution, in the past several years, Red River has “consistently failed to perform in accordance with the contractual requirements, including the failure to pick up trash to 25,883 households and 2,893 complaints since 2017.”

“Metro Public Works and Metro Legal have both gone above and beyond to try and work with Red River,” said Syracuse, who talks with officials at the company on a regular basis. “My resolution is supportive of their efforts and asks them to take whatever further steps are necessary, including termination and rebid of the contract.”

Syracuse said it’s not as simple as just firing one contractor and hiring another.

“Metro has taken very intentional and careful steps in bringing resolution to this, and we will do what it takes to ensure good service returns,” he said. “If there is a year that if feels apropos to file a resolution admonishing the trash company, it's 2020.”

Syracuse reiterated the vote is nonbinding, but a clear and intense admonishment of the company, and he hopes the last resort before cancelling the contract is a huge wake-up call. Already Red River was found in default of its contract with Nashville, but a full cancellation of the contract could have transitional costs to the city. Syracuse hopes it won’t come to that.

“This is the first public piece of legislation against the company and we hope Red River will get the message and rectify their service to make it consistent,” said Syracuse.

He said, basically, this resolution is telling the company to “shape up or ship out.”

“Of course, we hope we don’t have to cancel the contract, but rather they find a way to improve service and better manage it,” Syracuse said.

Again, the resolution does not mandate improved service but is sternly worded. The next step will be to terminate the contract with Red River.

“If things don’t improve in short order, we will push further on this matter, knowing an emergency contract with another company may cost us,” said Syracuse.

Attempts to reach Red River officials were unsuccessful by press time.

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