Manager of company handling Oakland’s trash disposal now working on ‘re-route’

A manager of the company handling Oakland’s refuse and trash disposal said recently he is working on a “re-route” that would begin on Jan. 1, 2015.
Gerry Burke, municipal services manager for Republic Waste Services, said he has been working with Mayor Chris Goodman to get a “good list of addresses,” so service days can be changed on a “minimal basis.”
He sent the list to Republic’s routing manager outside the region, who returned it because too many days were changed. So, the list was re-sent and returned with only about 20 percent of the potential pickup dates changed.
Burke made the comments during a report to the Oakland Board of Mayor and Aldermen at its Oct. 16 regular monthly meeting.
He noted that the company currently runs “five” route days Tuesday through Friday, which include two routes on Thursday. He wants to expand to “six” route days Monday through Friday, with two routes on one of those days.
Burke said Republic’s employees are currently getting “packed out,” having to run to the landfill and then coming back. It causes them to run longer than he would like, and it “kind of stresses” them.
“But if we stretch that out to six days,” he noted, “it cuts down on the number of stops they’ve got every day. And I think it can help them to be more efficient over time.”
Although 2015 is the last year of the contract’s first five-year term, Burke said he still thinks the re-route will be “beneficial” to the company and the residents.
“We do want to make it simple and try to keep it where not too many people get a day change,” he acknowledged. “But there’ll be plenty of notification, because it is going to be difficult to do without some change.”
Burke also emphasized that the re-route will not be done without approval by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Alderman Kelly Rector said he was aware of some “reimbursements” from the company to the town for some “overcharging.”
Town Recorder Tammie Hightower said Oakland was overcharged for the commercial rate in 2011 and 2012. She noted that some, but not all, of it was reimbursed.
Hightower said there was a “negotiated rate” that was lower than the contract amount. And because the reimbursements were based on the contract amount, she said monies are still owed to the town for commercial trash pickup.
The town recorder said she has asked about this “several times” since April.
“Today, I finally received an e-mail that said it’s going to be discussed in two weeks,” she noted. “So, maybe in two weeks, we’ll have an answer.”
Because he does not deal with the “financial side” of the business, Burke said he could not respond to that.
“That’s something I’ve got to have done with my office and with the mayor and Ms. Hightower,” he noted. “I sent the mayor an e-mail today about that. We will sit down and get that resolved.”
Goodman said that, as soon as possible, he will meet with Hightower, Burke and the manager’s staff to examine the routes and “a couple of other things.”
Noting that some commercial customers have the “front-end cans,” Burke said Oakland has a few on its account that it pays for. To “relieve” the town’s administrative staff, he recommended that Republic “take that over” and bill the customers.
“We pick up a lot of other commercial customers here who have the front-end containers,” he acknowledged. “We just do separate, individual contracts with each customer, and they would receive the same pricing.”
Under the contract, Burke said, the “standard” is that trash “bundles” cannot exceed 5-by-5-by-5 feet. Anything larger would be “claw piles” that an individual cannot handle.
In response to a question by Rector, Burke said Republic’s employees are supposed to notify customers when their trash bundles do not meet the criteria.
“We tag piles and let them know,” he said. “We are capable now of taking pictures and sending them to our supervisor and our operations manager through their phones. So, we need to make sure that is happening here.”
Rector said he thinks the company should contact the town after the piles are tagged. If they do not meet the criteria, he said one of Oakland’s employees could “take care” of them before a complaint is made to the mayor or aldermen.
“I agree with you,” Burke said, “and we can do that.”
While expressing appreciation for the town’s patience during the strike, he said the company has a new five-year agreement and “great personnel” now.
“Most of my management team came here through our strike with what’s called the Blue Crew,” he noted. “It’s people who come from all over the country who are some of our better drivers and employees.”
Burke said that, based on what he has seen, it is a “very caring and very knowledgeable” staff.
“So, I’m glad we were able to get through that hiccup,” he concluded. “I think we can continue, and we can move in the right direction.”