OLDSMAR — City leaders are asking Republic Services, Oldsmar's garbage collector, to help can all the trash talk.
Since the beginning of October, the city's utility billing department has received more than 175 calls from residents complaining about shoddy garbage collection, misplaced and damaged bins and missed routes by the city's private contractor.
Lisa Rhea, director of public works for Oldsmar, attributes the recent problems with Republic to the business' workload. At the end of September, Republic, along with two other solid waste companies, Waste Management and Progressive Waste Solutions, changed to an automated garbage pickup system in unincorporated Hillsborough County. It involved 250,000 customers.
"The timing with our problems was very coincidental with what was going on over there,'' Rhea said. "It is not fun for (the city's) utility billing clerks receiving the calls because they can't give the callers any answers since Republic is a contractor.''
Republic Services, whose local office is on W Linebaugh Avenue in Tampa, has served Oldsmar since 2003, and the current contract does not expire until 2017. It services about 5,000 Oldsmar households, and on average, each household pays approximately $16.25 per month for garbage and recycling services.
Two Republic Services executives, Patrick Rzeszut and John Clifford, came to last week's City Council meeting to address the concerns. Council member Jerry Beverland told the men that not only has he heard from many disgruntled residents, but he is frustrated with his own garbage pickup.
"I probably told 300 people that I'd be their mouthpiece tonight,'' said Beverland. "One complaint is I am tired of getting out of my truck and moving the garbage can from the middle of my driveway, and if you look down the roads on pickup day, there's garbage cans, two or three, in the middle of any street in town. It's aggravating to have to dodge garbage cans.''
Oldsmar resident Bonnie Stubbins also vented her frustrations to Rzeszut and Clifford.
Because she is handicapped and uses a wheelchair, Stubbins pays $2 extra each week to receive "carport pickup'' from Republic. However, Republic workers have skipped her house several times in recent months.
"The irony is that there's a sign that (Republic) posted on my post box with a logo and a trash can that says 'Needs Assistance,' she said. "If I could lug the can to the end of the road, trust me, I would.''
After the meeting, Rzeszut admitted that the Hillsborough project could have been a disruption for his workers.
"I guess it's fair to say that our eyes, our managers' eyes, went away from the ball a bit with the changeover in (Hillsborough),'' he said. "But really, I believe the main reason for the problem is a turnover in staff. We need to get more trained workers into Oldsmar. I want more workers than we have now to understand the routes so if someone gets sick or needs to take a vacation, it will still run smooth.''
Rhea is planning to meet with Rzeszut this week to discuss the city's concerns further.
"We'll meet to really hash it all out,'' she said. "We'll sit down and talk through everything that's going on and talk about solutions. We want to ensure that Republic follows through so that our residents receive what they are accustomed to."
Piper Castillo can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163. To write a letter to the editor, visit the website tampabay.com/letters or mail to Tampa Bay Times, 1130 Cleveland St., Suite 100A, Clearwater, FL 33755.