Summit County responds to complaints about garbage collection and fees
Council demands improvements to service
February 3, 2017
Summit County Manager Tom Fisher penned an open letter to residents this week to respond to the overwhelming number of complaints the county has continued to receive about the new curbside fees and garbage collection service.
Ever since Republic Services sent out bills for the county's new solid waste collection fee, county officials have been inundated with comments from property owners about the new billing system and garbage and recycling collection.
Of the nearly 20,000 invoices that were sent out in early December, nearly 7,000 remain unpaid.
Republic Services is scheduled to send reminders to those property owners that will contain additional information about the solid waste program. The 2017 collection bill will be sent in July.
"We have received a lot of comments relating to the fees and some service issues we have been having lately," Fisher told the County Council during its Wednesday meeting.
Fisher admitted the county may have confused the public when introducing the new fees and hopes his letter "will answer a lot of questions about why we need this."
"It is important to note that the fee does not replace property taxes used to fund solid waste. It was needed to supplement the already committed revenue to pay for the escalating costs of the program. In fact, most counties and municipalities charge for this service at a much higher rate in order to keep operations running," Fisher stated in the letter.
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He added, "We partnered with Republic Services to administer the billing on the County's behalf. No private information was provided to Republic other than the property owner name and address."
"Through this initial billing, we discovered errors on our end. The language on the bill was confusing and referenced a 65-gallon container when it should have stated it was for the county's solid waste collection program," Fisher stated. "We also discovered that some undeveloped properties, or vacant lots, received a bill and do not generate trash or require hauling service from the county."
The bulk complaints related to property owners living in remote areas, according to Derrick Radke, Summit County's public works director.
"Many of the comments from the property owners were that they haul their own trash off or didn't know there was dumpster available to them," Radke said. "Almost all of them think they pay enough in primary property taxes to more than cover the service provided."
Radke said some of the remote areas in Bear River, Weber Canyon, Samak and Tollgate may need additional dumpsters or could use "some degree of improvement." However, he said there are limited funds to accomplish them.
"If we dropped remote or cabin areas from the assessed fee, there would be a reduction in revenue and there really is no way to say who uses those dumpsters and who doesn't," Radke said.
Garbage and recycling pick-up has also recently been delayed county-wide because of inclement weather and broken equipment, Radke said.
"We have received complains about missed service and spilled trash so we have been working with Republic," Radke said. "Most, if not all, the misses recently have been due to weather and truck breakdowns. But we need to try and educate ourselves on what is going on and help work better with the public."
Radke further suggesting holding Republic Services more accountable for the service it is providing to enforce service related complaints.
"The contract we have with them has expectations. For example, failure to clean up waste or recycling spills could result in a $100 fine per offense," Radke said. "Our intention isn't to add revenue or cut the bills we owe them, it's to work together better to come up with some improvements."
County Council member Roger Armstrong said it is critical for the county to provide "great services and I really don't want to get anymore emails about trash."
"We've got to do a better job. We need to hold the service contractor accountable, but, at the end of the day, the buck stops with us," Armstrong said. "We agreed to an extended contract with this company and then we have services problems? It doesn't make us look very smart that we continued this contract.
"It actually lands on the shoulders of staff," Armstrong said. "This is your contract. It reflects badly. We've got to fix this."
Armstrong said the new program wasn't carefully thought through and is having a number of hiccups.
"Service is important to us and this is a situation where it may be falling a bit short," he said.
To view the county manager's open letter, go to http://summitcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/4472. To view the county's staff report about pick-up service and the contract with Republic Services, go to http://summitcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/4458.
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