La Plata looks to ad­dress on­go­ing re­cy­cling prob­lems

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­ Twitter: @Tif­fIndyNews

Re­cy­cling pick-up has re­cently been a ma­jor is­sue in the Town of La Plata, and the town coun­cil is now tak­ing ma­jor steps to find a res­o­lu­tion to re­lieve frustrated res­i­dents.

At the coun­cil’s July 12 meet­ing, mem­bers dis­cussed ways to ad­dress is­sues with the town’s cur­rent re­cy­cling com­pany’s pro­longed pick-up time and in­ad­e­quate cus­tomer ser­vice.

Robert F. Stahl, di­rec­tor of pub­lic works, said the town has re­ceived great cus­tomer ser­vice feed­back about trash pick-up but now they are mov­ing their fo­cus on im­prov­ing the re­cy­cling pick-up. Waste Man­age­ment Inc. cur­rently picks up the town’s re­cy­clables and has been do­ing so for well over a decade.

“The cus­tomer ser­vice has been ter­ri­ble and just a com­plete night­mare all of the time,” Stahl said. “We’ve had nu­mer­ous meet­ings and tried to straighten it out and I think ev­ery­one is frustrated with the sit­u­a­tion. We just can’t al­low our cus­tomer ser­vice to be poor and we just can’t deal with the same prob­lem ev­ery sin­gle week. We can’t al­low it to keep go­ing on. We have to ad­dress it and make some changes.”

Stahl said the cus­tomer ser­vice with Waste Man­age­ment Inc. has dwin­dled over time. At one point, the com­pany han­dled re­cy­cling pick-up for the county, In­dian Head and La Plata, but sev­eral years ago the county and In­dian Head switched to dif­fer­ent re­cy­cling ser­vices.

“If the town coun­cil con­sid­ers a new con­tract, the ex­pec­ta­tion would be that it would save the town money,” said Town Man­ager Daniel Mears. “In that case, the town coun­cil could con­sider a re­duc­tion in the re­cy­cling fee if the savings is sub­stan­tive. There are no costs to end the town’s cur­rent con­tract. How­ever, there is a 90-day no­tice re­quire­ment if the town de­cides to do so.”

Coun­cil­man Lynn D. Gil­roy said he’s had nu­mer­ous com­plaints from res­i­dents about their re­cy­cling be­ing out all day and never picked up, as well as trash be­ing left on the ground in front of their homes. Re­cy­cling pick-up in La Plata is typ­i­cally on Wed­nes­day but res­i­dents have had their re­cy­cling picked up days later, even as late as Satur­day.

Coun­cil­man Keith Back has also ex­pe­ri­enced the com­pany fall­ing short of pro­vid­ing on­time re­cy­cling ser­vices in his own neigh­bor­hood in La Plata.

“The fact that there hasn’t been a sin­gle pick-up on time in months is dis­ap­point­ing,” Back said. “Our re­cy­cling has been picked up on Thurs­day and if trash falls off the truck or falls out of the bin, the re­cy­cle man doesn’t care. Two weeks ago, the truck was drop­ping glass as it drove away and there was a pile of glass in front of my house and in front of my neigh­bor’s mail­box.”

When con­tacted by the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent for com­ment, Lisa Kardell, di­rec­tor of pub­lic af­fairs with Waste Man­age­ment Inc., is­sued a state­ment on the com­pany’s be­half.

“Waste Man­age­ment apol­o­gizes for the re­cent ser­vice in­ter­rup­tions,” Kardell wrote in an email to the In­de­pen­dent. “We are com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing su­pe­rior ser­vice to our cus­tomers. We have re­viewed our rout­ing to ac­com­mo­date the growth in South­ern Mary­land and are plan­ning to add an ad­di­tional truck to our routes to as­sist with ser­vic­ing our cus­tomers.”

The town staff spoke with the Town of In­dian Head, which pre­vi­ously used Waste Man­age­ment Inc. but pro­cured a con­tract with a new re­cy­cling com­pany about two years ago. The town staff re­viewed that con­tract and viewed its terms prior to dis­cus­sion with the coun­cil on Tues­day.

“Both sides are fully aware of what the is­sues are,” Stahl said. “We met with Waste Man­age­ment Inc. in May and said ei­ther straighten this out or else and they promised us bet­ter re­sults. We hoped they would straighten up a lit­tle bit but since the day we met with them, they have not fin­ished at­tain­ing La Plata’s re­cy­cling in the same day. The coun­cil has been sup­port­ive of do­ing the right thing and in this case they are fo­cused on bet­ter cus­tomer ser­vice.”

Mears said the goal of chang­ing re­cy­cling con­trac­tors would not re­quire the town to change its re­cy­cling con­tain­ers. How­ever, a change of con­trac­tor may re­quire re­cy­cling pickup on a dif­fer­ent day.

“All Amer­i­can Re­cy­cling al­ready has a con­tract with In­dian Head so we’re hop­ing to pig­gy­back on In­dian Head’s con­tract and use their pric­ing,” Stahl said.

The coun­cil has not made any fi­nal de­ci­sions yet. A con­tract will be brought be­fore them at the next town coun­cil meet­ing for con­sid­er­a­tion on the mat­ter, which could be au­tho­rized by res­o­lu­tion.

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