The company with the public contract for residential garbage service in the city of Lafayette and rural areas of the parish faces roughly $3,000 in fines for missed collections as it struggles to deal with staffing and equipment issues.
City-parish officials say the problems with Republic Services have been percolating for months, and a spokesman for the Arizona-based company said this week that extra crews are being brought in from Texas for support until more drivers can be hired at the local office.
“We expect that this surge in drivers will enable our team in Lafayette to resolve any pending issues by as early as next week and allow our team to once again provide excellent service,” Republic spokesman Russ Knocke said in a written statement. “In addition, we are actively recruiting throughout the region for permanent drivers to be based in Lafayette who meet or exceed our rigorous safety standards.”
Many of the reported complaints have been about missed collections on the Friday routes in the fast-growing areas of south Lafayette.
“Almost every Friday I get calls from somebody,” said Councilman William Theriot, who represents the area. “Something needs to be done, because the people are aggravated.”
Missed collections have been an issue since late last year, said City-Parish Public Works Director Kevin Blanchard.
“I have at least three messages on my desk every Monday morning from someone in Fernewood, ” Blanchard said, referring to a south Lafayette subdivision with chronic collection issues.
Republic is assessed fines of $25 per missed collection per day for garbage not picked up by the second day if a customer calls in a complaint about a missed pickup.
Those fines have been growing: $300 in January, $650 in February and an estimated $3,000 this month.
City-parish government gave the company a break on fines in March, because some of the problems that month are believed to have been related to a special program that called for extra pickups of bulky waste, such as appliances and furniture.
Blanchard said the collection issues are due in part to outdated collection routes that have not been updated to accommodate the growing number of subdivisions in south Lafayette and in part to staffing issues.
“They’ve just had too many days where they can’t run a full crew,” he said.
Knocke said the company was hit with a “perfect storm” of problems: Some drivers recently left the company and two remaining drivers were involved in separate accidents.
The staffing issues came as the company also had to take a few trucks offline for maintenance, he said.
The company brought in one group of drivers last week from Texas to fill in and plans to bring another group in next week.
In addition to working to address staffing issues, Blanchard said, Republic is working to redraw its routes in south Lafayette for better service.
“We are incredibly proud to be the service provider in Lafayette Parish, and we will do better,” Knocke said.