BROOKSVILLE — Nearly two months into the county’s new garbage collection service, Hernando County Commissioner Steve Champion said he was happy that he no longer was getting a crush of complaints from his eastern Hernando constituents.
Commissioner John Allocco's face showed no such relief.
Allocco's phone continues to ring, he said, and he was not amused that Republic Services still was missing houses and failing to communicate with customers.
"If I continue to get these complaints,'' he said, "I'm going to suggest that we look at the contract and fine appropriately.''
Terrance Dotson, division manager for Republic Services, responded to commissioner concerns at their March 12 meeting. The start-up of the new, automated garbage collection service had its share of glitches, he said, but service was getting better.
"Things are starting to settle down. Trash was a big challenge,'' he said. Beginning the automated trash service, delivering standardized trash cans and changing all the routes was disruptive for the 65,000 customers, he said.
"We still have a challenge with yard waste pick-up and recycle pick-up,'' Dotson said, adding that the company brought in help from other communities to stabilize the service.
"According to our industry standard, with something of this magnitude and this size, this disruption is just normal,” Dotson said. “But we're at a good pace for a successful conversion.''
Allocco wasn't convinced.
"One of my concerns is, I'm still seeing the same places with the same problems — Glen Lakes, Brookridge, the northern end of Royal Highlands,” Allocco said. “They're not getting picked up for their trash. They're not getting pick-up for their yard waste. The biggest frustration for me is the lack of communication with customers.''
Residents who call customer service get a call center in another state. Republic has said that was a corporate, not a local, decision.
The response has not been acceptable in Allocco's view.
"The customer needs to get the communication (saying) yes, we screwed up again today, and we'll be back tomorrow to get your yard waste,'' he said. Customers don't want to hear that the yard waste truck will be back next week.
"They paid for recycling this week,'' Allocco told Republic officials. "Every time they get told its going to be another week, you just financially benefited, because they paid for services they didn't get.
"We have so many other things that we have to deal with in this county. I'm sick and tired of dealing with garbage.''
Dotson vowed to look at the communications problems, but noted that complaints were not unusual and said the numbers have gone down.
"We do over 60,000 drive-bys each day, so there's going to be complaints,'' he said. "What's different in this county is they reach right out to commissioners.''
Republic Services is still delivering trash cans to those with the new service. Part of the delay has been that about 4,000 new customers have signed up, and the company ran out of cans, officials said.
In May, Republic Services also will have a 30-day period during which residents can request a smaller garbage can. Several customers have complained that the new cans are too big. Dotson said the company will order smaller cans when it gets a better idea of how many it needs.
Contact Barbara Behrendt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Republic Services, call (352) 540-6457.