BROOKSVILLE — Still fielding between 400 and 500 calls a day, Republic Services officials stood before the Hernando County Commission on Tuesday and promised to continue to improve their garbage collection service.
More than five months after Republic became the county's sole residential garbage collection company, business unit manager Randy Canal thanked the county for its patience and acknowledged it has been the company's most difficult transition ever.
Both Republic and county officials offered suggestions about how service might improve. But it was the last few months of calls from irate customers that commissioners focused on Tuesday.
"Honestly,'' Commissioner Dave Russell told Republic officials, "our staff is getting hammered.''
Most of the problems that county workers are hearing about relate to a lack of communication. People often call the county when repeated calls to Republic's customer service office are not returned or do not go through, Russell said.
Joe Assalti, Republic's division manager, assured Russell that the company has six people working full time to handle complaints and answer questions. When they anticipate an increase in the volume of calls, they increase the staff.
"I'd just like to see more,'' Russell said.
Commissioner Jim Adkins said he would also like to see better communication and better service from the company. He said he had fielded numerous calls about missed service, yard waste issues, billing problems and confusion over recycling.
"My emails and my telephone calls have been tremendous,'' Adkins said. And, as for the county staff answering complaints, "They're at wit's end," he said.'
Brenda Frazier, the county's community relations coordinator, said customers were continuing to have problems getting simple answers about service and billing issues.
Scott Harper, the county's solid waste manager, offered one suggestion that he thought would help with billing. He recommended that the commission consider putting the garbage collection fee on the tax bills of property owners — the same way the annual solid waste assessment is billed.
That solution would cut down on the phone calls and emails, take care of landlord and tenant questions, and solve the issue of people who thought they had paid but didn't and people who said they didn't get a bill, Harper said.
That was one of the options on the table when voters overwhelmingly defeated automated, countywide garbage collection on a referendum two years ago, Commissioner John Druzbick reminded commissioners.
Harper said it wasn't the same issue; he wasn't advocating countywide automated service.
Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said he continues to get questions from people who don't want to be in the mandatory collection zone in Spring Hill. Many say they weren't living in Spring Hill when voters approved the zone years ago.
Dukes said the county would need to address the issue in the future.
In the meantime, Harper said there are some issues with the borders of mandatory zone that need to be addressed. He displayed a map that demonstrated how some subdivisions — and in some cases, even lots — are divided between mandatory and nonmandatory zones.
Harper said the county is also working on interactive maps that will be added to the county's website to show where the mandatory zones are located and, eventually, zones for recycling and yard waste by day.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.