Council chides contractor over lapses in service

— The City Council gave an earful to its contracted solid waste pickup company, putting it on notice that the city will not tolerate recent lapses in service.

Representatives from Progressive Waste Solutions, owners of city contractor SWDI, apologized for the lack of service and promised that the service will improve.

“I’m not trying to make excuses,” Progressive Waste representative Roddie Matherne told council members Tuesday night. “You don’t deserve to be getting service like it has been.”

Councilman Emile Spano said that he has seen numerous instances of trash and debris piles sitting for weeks in his district, where a truck with an automated boom is scheduled to pass each Monday.

“I’m very dissatisfied with the situation,” Spano said. “We’re paying for services we’re not getting.”

Councilman Reginald Francis Sr. agreed, adding service had lagged in his district even before Spano’s issues.

“My district is terrible right now,” he said. “I happened to catch the (boom) truck in town and asked the guy if he could please make a pass.”

Francis questioned if the lapse in service came from the purchase of SWDI by Progressive, as a result lowering the city as a priority.

“I don’t know what the problem is, but your service is not what it was when you started,” Francis said to Matherne.

When Progressive purchased SWDI, organizational changes led to a shuffling of personnel, Matherne said. He also cited a shortage of available drivers for the boom trucks as a factor in the lapse.

Progressive has sent extra boom trucks to help catch up with the overflow of trash piles, Matherne said, and that the regular boom truck pickup schedule is back on track.

Matherne also pointed out that his company provided extra assistance to the city in collecting debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac.

Spano said that while he appreciates Progressive’s post-storm efforts, “business is business.” He later moved to not pay Progressive for boom truck services in October, citing that contracted services were not rendered.

Long said that according to the services contract with SWDI, the city could penalize the company only up to $200 per month for missed pickup locations.

Spano’s motion died from a lack of second, but councilmen said they felt their message was sent to the company.

“They know we’ll be watching them,” Councilman Charles Brown Sr. said.