“Right now, it’s still more of an inconvenience, but my neighbors are getting to the point of calling the health department because of the mosquitoes and the health issues,” Hogan Street homeowner Rachel Kee said.
Kee has waited since last week for her garbage to be collected. Her neighbor’s bin is filling with rain and overflowing onto the street, its contents visible from busy Central Avenue.
“There’s a little girl that lives there. That trash is taking up her play room,” Kee said.
Others on the street wonder why their trash hasn’t been picked up despite several calls to 311, Kee said.
“Every time we called, it would be, ‘It’ll be taken care of by 8 p.m. tonight,’” but it never was, she said.
Hogan Street residents aren’t alone among those missing trash pickup since the city started its new waste collection contract June 3. The city’s 311 service, expanded to handle solid-waste calls, reported receiving nearly 1,200 calls a day about pickup, prompting the office to hire several temporary workers.
There was a miscommunication that the city was calling in the Georgia National Guard to assist with pickup, according to Solid Waste Director Mark Johnson. Rather, Advanced Disposal, one of the two primary contractors, has called in the “cavalry” to assist, Johnson said.
“Basically, the local division called and asked for help for the transition,” he said. “You’ve got an area manager who has access to other facilities and other resources, both truck drivers and organizational managers.”
During the transition, most households were assigned a new hauling company and a new driver who is operating a new truck with a robotic arm to lift containers.
Most of the missed pickups were on routes assigned to Advanced; Inland Service Corp., the other primary contractor, has had just a handful of issues, Johnson said.
Another issue is that some older, tree-lined streets and alleys are too narrow for the robotic arms to retrieve the containers.
The city is reminding customers to allow three feet between garbage and recycling containers, positioned with handles in, and other objects to permit the arm to grab the carts, he said.
For tight spots such as alleys, Advanced, which took on most of the Augusta Disposal routes, is bringing in pickups to fetch the carts and deliver them to the garbage trucks, Johnson said.
In the densely populated area between Central Avenue and Walton Way near the Academy of Richmond County, containers were overflowing Tuesday. A sofa sat at a curb, while damaged carts stood full and untouched on a dead-end segment of Adrian Street.
Johnson said haulers ran 11 trucks during the weekend to cover missed pickups but “got themselves behind in the hours, and then it just started to domino.”
Also contributing to the workload are thousands of requests for garbage or recycling containers. The city is delivering up to 200 carts a day, Johnson said.
The city is prioritizing cart delivery, with garbage containers first, then recycling, then requests for new available smaller containers.
Customer Tom Hoyle said he called 311 on Saturday when he realized his collection was missed Friday. The 311 office was closed, and a recorded message offered no information about garbage collection, Hoyle said.
“I guess the administration didn’t feel a need to have some folks at the call center to answer what I would anticipate, a lot of calls (Saturday),” he said.
Johnson said he expects most customers will see any forgotten trash removed during the second week under the new contract.
“Let’s gauge our success on Thursday for the Wednesday collections, and I think you’ll see a much better success story,” he said.