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City implements short-term solution for Northland trash problem

Posted: 2:46 PM, Jul 24, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-24 19:30:30-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After receiving thousands of complaints about trash and recycling services in the Northland, city leaders met Tuesday to discuss both long and short-term solutions.

"It's something that you should be able to rely on as happening everyday at the same time when it's supposed to happen. That has not been happening in the Northland," Councilman Dan Fowler said.

His colleague, Councilwoman Heather Hall, came armed with a pile of papers. 

"This is my stack of everybody who's complaining just recently about their trash not being picked up," she said.

Council members, the city manager, the solid waste department and trash contractors were all present at Tuesday's meeting.

"It's not acceptable what's occurring," KCMO Manager of Solid Waste Michael Shaw said. 

Jim's Disposal is the subcontractor serving 55,000 homes north of the river each week. The owner told 41 Action News employee retention is partially to blame for the problems.

"It's not so much we don't have enough staff. It's the new drivers that we brought on," Charles Byrd explained.

He said drivers are struggling to keep up with growth in the Northland, leading to new neighborhoods and streets. As a short-term fix, Byrd is using GPS and staff to track trucks and make sure they're going to the right places. 

The city's primary trash contractor, WCA, is also pitching in to fix the issue by sending four trucks up north each week. The company isn't happy about the problems. 

"As the prime contractor, WCA is subject to significant fines and liquidated damages because of late collections... in response to the unacceptable service failures in the North zone, WCA has hired third-party contractors at significant expense," read a fact sheet handed out by WCA Regional Vice President Al Blease. 

While short-term solutions are already in place, more permanent fixes are unclear at this time. 

Hall is pushing for rolling bins with lids at every house, which some homeowners have already purchased for themselves at a cost of $50 a piece. According to Hall, outfitting every household with the bins will cost $9 million.

City Manager Troy Schulte pointed out national trends of rate increases and company consolidation, which could mean a more drastic trash and recycling change in the future. 

"It will at some point be cheaper for us to step back into this business," he said. 

The current cost of trash and recycling in Kansas City was also part of the discussion. Residents pay $5.81 for trash and $2.63 for recycling each month, for a total of roughly $8 a month. By comparison, residents in St. Louis pay $12 a month. 

Council members will reconvene in 30 days to discuss progress on the trash problems.