'We’re not playing nice guy anymore,' City Manger Jim Landon said at the workshop.
Palm Coast has asked for residents’ patience as the city finishes up the process of cleaning up debris from Hurricane Irma. But the city’s patience with Waste Pro, the contractor responsible for doing much of the pickup, is wearing thin: Palm Coast has prepared to fine Waste Pro for uncompleted work.
We’re tired of it, too. It just adds insult to injury when we still have storm debris out, and they’re not doing their jobs."
— JIM LANDON, city manager
“That’s our only way of getting top management’s attention,” City Manager Jim Landon told City Council members at a council workshop Oct. 31. “We are trying to put pressure on them to keep pressure on their crews to get it done. ... Anybody not getting picked up, we need to let us know, because that’s the way we let Waste Pro know. And we’re doing it with fines. We’re not asking anymore. We’re not playing nice guy anymore. We’re tired of it, too. It just adds insult to injury when we still have storm debris out, and they’re not doing their jobs.”
Waste Pro spokesman Ron Pecora wrote the following in an emailed response to the Palm Coast Observer’s request for comment:
“As has been reported, the massive amounts of storm debris created by hurricanes has resulted in cities bringing in outside contractors, using existing waste haulers and city staff to deal with the unprecedented situation. Waste Pro’s direction comes from the city of Palm Coast as to what debris to focus on on any particular day. Everyone is anxious to get back to regular service and the city of Palm Coast has done an excellent job of posting cleanup status on the city webpage.”
Waste Pro is responsible for regular trash and yard waste pickup as well as hurricane debris removal, and the city’s contract allows the city administration to assess fines of $250 per day for each route not completed on its regular pickup day. Other fines can be assessed for various errors, such as leaving tire marks.
So far, the city has prepared an invoice for Waste Pro with $2,925 worth of fines, according to city spokeswoman Cindi Lane. The city has notified Waste Pro of the fines and the amount, but had not actually sent the invoice as of the afternoon of Oct. 31. Most of the fines were for yard debris that was not picked up after residents placed it outside in cans and bags for regular yard waste pickup on Wednesdays, Lane said. The fines cover the period from Sept. 25 to Oct. 15.
The city did not assess fines before that period, in recognition that the period immediately after the hurricane was an “extraordinary time,” Lane said.
Landon’s remarks came after council members said they’d been getting complaints from residents about trash and debris pickup.
Councilman Bob Cuff said he’d seen a “troubling” increase in emails and calls about trash pickup. “I’ve gotten a number of emails documenting streets, whole streets, that have been missed,” he said.
Councilman Steve Nobile had been hearing some concerns, too.
“My people are good,” he said. “They drive by the house and they see me outside and stop, and they go, ‘Any word?’ and I say, ‘Uh, no.’ And they go, ‘OK. We know where you live, you know.’”
Landon said the city has worked to get additional debris haulers to aid with debris pickup.
The city was about 60% of the way through its “first pass” of hurricane debris pickup as of Oct. 27 and expects the work to take several more weeks. It has picked up 16,000 cubic yards of debris so far and plans on a second pass to pick up additional debris.
Residents whose trash is not picked up on the scheduled day should leave it at the curb until it is picked up, and call the city’s customer service line at 386-986-2360 to report that they were missed, according to the city website.