Starting July 1, city will collect trash missed by Red River: Mayor Tom Henry

The city has begun collecting trash missed by Red River for more than 24 hours. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)
Tom Henry

With previous attempts to improve trash and recycling collection not entirely successful, the city has decided to take matters into its own hands.

Mayor Tom Henry announced Tuesday that, starting July 1, Fort Wayne Street Department employees will work on their off-hours to collect materials that have gone uncollected by Red River Waste for more than 24 hours. Compensation for the employees and use of city equipment will come from fines paid by Red River, whose performance has been widely criticized since it began service in January 2018.

Residents are urged to call 311 to report misses, which will assist the activation of the new plan.

Henry’s announcement came less than a week after his Republican challenger in November, Tim Smith, challenged Henry to address Red River’s performance and promised to act if Henry did not. In addition to the “self cure” Henry announced Tuesday, Smith also said he would seek to renegotiate the contract if necessary.

For the past several weeks, the city said in a statement, the city’s Working Group on Garbage and Recycling has been discussing how best to ensure materials are collected. Last fall, new routes went into effect in an effort to improve service, but Red River currently misses between 1 and 2 percent of households each week. The company makes about 120,000 collections each week.

“It’s the city’s duty to ensure the best services are being provided to our garbage and recycling customers and look for proactive solutions aimed at quality assurance,” Henry said in a statement. “We recognize customers have experienced challenges and we’re taking action because our residents deserve the best, and we demand a higher standard of performance from Red River.”

Although Smith suggested the possibility of cancelling Red River’s contract should problems persist, Henry said such a course could result in collection delays of several weeks, a possible lawsuit and the need to rebid the contract, which could take months and result in higher fees for customers.

Henry also said state law required the city to award the contract to the “lowest and most responsive bidder,” which in this case was Red River.

City Councilman Russ Jehl, meanwhile, wondered what took so long.

“For 18 months, Fort Wayne has had issues with trash collection services. Today, Mayor Henry rolled out a new plan to help address the issue but having specific city departments assist in missed collections,” Jehl, R-2nd, said in a statement. “I am grateful the Mayor has taken the clothespin off his nose. The garbage issue cannot be fixed without his engagement.”

Jehl said he sent a letter to the Henry administration on Sept. 18, 2018 asking why it had yet not invoked the “self-cure” clause of the Red River contract, which is what was proposed at today’s news conference.