MINERAL WELLS — Ripped trash bags and garbage strewn about. A month's worth of trash bags collecting near the sidewalk. Trash being picked up on random days, or sometimes just once a week. These were just a few issues Mineral Wells residents reported in the last several weeks, prompting the city council to meet and discuss the performance of its trash provider.
Progressive Waste Solutions, or its parent company, has provided solid waste collection services to the city of Mineral Wells since at least 2001, but over the last couple months, has been the subject of numerous complaints.
"We went through a rough month of June," Mineral Wells City Manager Randy Criswell told council members Tuesday night.
Criswell said he had several conversations with the company over the last year regarding the need to improve communication.
"And it did," he said. "Through the month of June, nobody was happy about trash collection but we knew every day what the circumstances were with Waste Connections, and I applaud them for that."
According to the current contract, Waste Connections is required to provide a complaint log, which was presented to city council.
During February, there were 12 complaints; in March, 17; In April, 19; in May 70; and in June, 91 complaints recorded. The majority of the complaints were missed pick up.
"I've definitely gotten a lot of phone calls and emails, and as long as I can remember, [Waste Connections] has done a good job over the years," At Large Place 1 Brian Shoemaker said. "I know companies are going through hard times right now, and I'm guessing for you, that's the problem.
"With that being said, I don't know what other options are out there, but it might be worth having other companies bid to see. I do think we have an opportunity here to maybe look at other things and see what else is out there."
Greg Brown, division vice president with Waste Connections, acknowledged to council that the company was struggling with labor shortages, noting that the trucks are in great shape and the business has plenty of drivers — it's the helpers on the back of the truck that are the issue.
"I know you've taken a lot of complaints and I can tell you right now, we have 20 employees that live in this town and when their trash doesn't get picked up, I get texts," he said. "Last week, everybody jumped on the truck together to make sure this town got picked up and we saw a group come together as a team to try and make things better.
"So that adds a little bit of light to the end of this tunnel that I hope we're finishing."
Ward 4 Doyle Light acknowledged the hiring difficulties, saying he knows the company is doing the best that it can.
Ward 2 Carlos Maldonado thanked Waste Connections for their recent improvement, and suggested residents might be better satisfied with having pick-up only once a week on the day and time scheduled.
The city's contract with the trash service provider is set to expire at the end of February.
"I think it's just good stewardship to see what's out there, in addition to the fact that we had already discussed other things we wanted, such as roll-offs, convenience station changes," Ward 3 Beth Watson said. "I think if we had the [pull] carts, this would be a whole lot less of an issue, because if your cart sits at the curb for two days, who cares? But two trash bags out there, that's a different story."
Mayor Regan Johnson asked if specifications for one- or two-day-a-week pickup services and other alternatives could be added into a request for proposal.
"Absolutely. An RFP is not a contract, you're just establishing that baseline level of service and you're soliciting a fair quote," Criswell said.
The council unanimously approved giving notice to Waste Connections that the city does not intend to automatically renew its contract, directing staff to develop and RFP for solid waste collection.
During Tuesday's meeting, the council also:
• Approved payment of $2,520 to Parkhill/Schrickel Rollins for professional engineering services on Phase II and III of the U.S. Highway 180 West waterline project. Criswell said the engineering work on the project is about 77 percent complete, and is expected to go out for bid this summer.
• Approved payment to Parkhill in the amount of $4,250 for services associated with the downtown water line improvements. Engineering work on that is about 85 percent completed.
• Approved a final payment of $8,000 to BLOC Design-Build, LLC for work on the supervisory control and data acquisition system replacement project, which monitors and controls the water treatment plant and water conditions.
"This was a system that was ignored and penny-pinched for so many years," Criswell said. "Before, to check a tank level you would drive to the tank and climb up and look to see how much water was in it."