Citizens deserve refund for poor trash, recycling services

Fort Wayne citizens have not been happy with the performance of Red River Waste Solutions in picking up their trash — or more often NOT picking up their trash.

As the writer in a letter to the editor in The Journal Gazette recently complained, “Week after week, month after month, all we hear is that they are working on fixing the problems. I’ve lost track of how many times I have called to report my trash pickup being late.”

We agree with City Councilman Russ Jehl’s suggestion, echoed by Mayor Tom Henry, that customers deserve some recompense for Red River’s failures to deliver on their service expectations.

Red River replaced Republic Services due to its low bid for a city contract. But it experienced a serious shortage in drivers, since the expected switchover of candidates from Republic was far less than expected.

The Texas-based company began providing services on Jan. 2, but there were problems and apologies early on due to late service and other issues.

Mayor Henry said, “We expect better results from Red River.”

Council President Tom Freistroffer said council was “very disappointed with repetitive resident complaints.”

So the city fined Red River $15,000 in April, and an additional $50,000 in May for not meeting certain benchmarks as outlined in the garbage and recycling contract. In July, the city fined the company $84,000 after receiving 2,063 verified calls for missed trash collections, and another $38,750 in fines for 784 missed recycling pickups. Even more problems were reported in August, with 4,840 missed trash pickups and 1,100 missed recycling calls.

Red River published a full-page apology for their problems in the Aug. 12 Journal Gazette, with a promise to “get the job done efficiently and effectively.”

But Fort Wayne homeowners, such as the letter-to-the-editor writer, are at the point where they prefer actual results to apologies, excuses and promises.

We believe the fines collected by the city should be translated into a rebate to customers who have been suffering the bad effects of an ill-prepared new trash and recycling service provider.

Tuesday, City Council introduced a non-binding resolution that states council “believes that citizen ratepayers that rely on Red River’s services and pay fees for Red River’s service should be provided with some form of reimbursement due to the service failures and inconvenience.”

News-Sentinel.com’s Kevin Leininger reported Monday that “Council believes the reimbursement could be funded either by waiving solid waste fees for one month or by using the fines previously levied against Red River currently being held in the city’s Solid Waste Fund. If insufficient funds are available to provide a full month of relief to rate payers, the resolution adds, ‘a letter should be sent by the city through the Public Works Division to Red River requesting the necessary funds be provided.’ ”

We believe the resolution should be passed in the next council meeting Tuesday. Citizens have been patient, but when you are a customer who doesn’t receive the service you’ve paid for, you deserve a refund.

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