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County Calls Waste Pro On the Carpet, Only to Lavish Praise, Flattery and Excuses

| December 5, 2017

The county administration is happy with Waste Pro. Commissioners, less so, depending on the month. (c FlaglerLive)

The county administration is happy with Waste Pro. Commissioners, less so, depending on the month. (c FlaglerLive)

Four weeks ago Flagler County Commissioners were steaming over poor service from Waste Pro, the trash hauler under contract by the county and Palm Coast for 11 years.


Commissioner Nate McLaughlin wanted Waste Pro officials called in to answer for recurring problems. “We can’t let this go on. We talk to them and talk to them, and we’re not getting what we need,” he said. “You can’t count on waste Pro,” Commissioner Greg Hansen said bluntly. County Administrator Craig Coffey spoke of problems for the last two years. They were echoing similar problems in Palm Coast, where city council members have been fielding complaints from constituents since before Waste Pro’s contract renewed last year, at a steeper cost.

On Monday, John Cinelli, Waste Pro’s division manager in Bunnell, appeared before county commissioners in a workshop. He was there to account for the company falling down on the job. Instead, his appearance turned into a brief, lavish flattery session from commissioners and the county administrator to Waste Pro: McLaughlin no fewer than four times praised and thanked Cinelli for showing up, saying that alone “means a lot to me that you take the time to do this,” though Waste Pro is in essence an adjunct government service, and Cinelli’s appearance was no different than that of the head of a government department responsible for the service under contract.

Cinelli himself appeared for less than 15 minutes, and spoke for all of one minute, all statements considered, as Coffey mostly led the questions–more with explanations and excuses on behalf of Waste Pro than with probing questions that might have shed light on the company’s issues locally.

He had begun the day by sending commissioners a memo from Heidi Petito, the county’s general services director, that radically belied the problem-picture painted by commissioners. “Although we do receive an occasion complaint, overall staff would rate their service as very good,” Petito wrote. “Considering that each resident (approximately 6,000 customers) has the potential to receive service 5 times a week (for a total of 30,000 services per month) and at our best we are receiving 3 to 5 complaints a month and at our worst we are receiving 10 to 15 complaints per month, the complaints only account for between .01 to .05% of the customers served.”

Remarkably, the memo and Coffey at various points placed some of the blame for service failures on “the homeowner” who, in Coffey’s words, “who is not following the rules.”

Unlike Palm Coast, the county does not have a systematic method of documenting complaints by day, address and type, nor does the count levy fines on Waste Pro, as does Palm Coast, for recurring problems such as missed pick-ups, damages to trash cans and so on. So there is no systematic way of analyzing Waste Pro service in the county. But service in Palm Coast has deteriorated considerably over the past year, well before the storm. There’d been a time when Waste Pro would go months without a single fine from the city, That has changed, with fines in May and June adding up to roughly $2,000 each, and spiking in July and August, well before the storm, to over $4,000 each.

Th city went easy on Waste Pro in September to take account of the storm, so no fines were levied. But the situation does not appear to have improved much in October, when fines totaled $3,000, and November, when total fines rose to $3,305, the third-worst month of the year.

Cinelli did not have to speak of Palm Coast issues to county commissioners, though Palm Coast is also his responsibility, and the two contracts piggy-back on each other.

As for the county, Cinelli put the blame on a supervisor who was overseeing the area. “He has been replaced,” Cinelli said. “So you know the people we had there before was dropping the ball for us, and when we realized he was causing more of a problem than helping us he’s been replaced, so perhaps some of those complaints were valid. We’re not perfect.”

Cinelli said he has three routes running each day. Coffey again made apologies for him: “We know some routes do better than others, and I know there’s people that call off sick and you’re always going through those things as we go through personnel ourselves,” the county administrator said. Coffey then asked Cinelly “what’s happening” when routes aren’t completed, leading the question with multiple-choice answers: “Is it that the routes are growing, the accumulations are heavier, the routes are heavier, or just a crew slower?”

Cinelli said it’s “a combination of things,” attributing some of the problems to the vast distances drivers have to cover in the county. He did not explain why those distances were not problems a few years ago, but are problems now, as distances in the county have not changed.

But Cinelli did say something more revealing than he perhaps intended: “You guys have grown but we’re still using the same amount of trucks as we started,” he said, begging a question no commissioner asked: If there’s been growth, and there has, then Waste Pro has been expanding its customer base without adding to its truck fleet, essentially reaping more profit by working (or overworking) the same crews. Charges for waste service in the county have grown $220,000 in the last two years, from $1.33 million to $1.55 million this year.

Cinelli did say that the company was “rerouting” its county routes and “putting another truck on the road,” attributing the need to “the distance we fly with the county,” not to additional customers. “It’s not always the garbage it’s the mileage we have to drive to,” he said.

“That would definitely lead to better service as well,” Coffey said.

“Thank you once again for hearing our grievance and taking the time to come over here and meet with us face to face,” McLaughlin said again. “That’s a great message that you’re sending to us.” But Waste Pro never volunteered. It had no choice. It was called to the commission by commissioners, and by McLauhlin specifically.

That was it for Cinelli’s appearance. “You guys had asked for this, is there any other questions or anything else you’d like us to look into this,” Coffey asked commissioners after Petito summarized her memo. None did.

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17 Responses for “County Calls Waste Pro On the Carpet, Only to Lavish Praise, Flattery and Excuses”

  1. Dave says:

    Drop Waste Pro, Starr taking bids now to get a company that will do job better

  2. Linze says:

    Can’t depend on waste pro, and spill trash on the road and don’t pick it up
    Yard trash lays on grass till it kill the grass

    Get bids for a lower cost,drop waste pro

  3. T.J. says:

    Find a bigger and better company, have them both running, and see who gets more praises.

  4. tulip says:

    Why is the BOCC and Admininstrator sucking up to Wastepro. Maybe they get preferential treatment from Waste Pro that the rest of us don’t get?

  5. Beans are spilled says:

    Our population is growing and waste pro is still using the same old fleet. Well I think we all know now why our service is irregular at best. I echo FlaglerLive, the cat is out of the bag, and the fact that no commissioners noticed or cared to ask why this is so, is the worst part of this story.

  6. gmath55 says:

    I have no problem with waste pro over here in the S section. They do sometimes leave a little garbage behind but no big deal. The recycle guy leaves a bottle or two behind. No big deal.

  7. Wishful Thinking says:

    Our route had two great guys for several years. They never left bins in the road and even ran them up our driveway after I had surgery for weeks. Then they were transferred – one fired – they never got the e-mail I sent to Cinelli about how great they were.until I called district office.

    I guess Waste Pro pays the haulers and drivers crap money and alo treat them like crap is what it appears because the turnover is far too often.

    Commissioner Nate McLaughlin, poor man,probably sincerely thought CInelli came voluntarily – since McLaughlin probably never reads anything much beyond the next ribbon cutting he’s invited to attend.

  8. Don White says:

    Here is a copy and paste of a letter to the editor I sent on Nov 11, ’17 to the Palm Coast Observer, which chose not to run it–as is their right–even after I made a second inquiry about it two weeks ago. At this point, I consider my comments fair game and since I still stand by them. The headline for my Observer submission was “In Defense of Waste Pro”. It reads: “Dear Editor:

    Re recent articles including in the Nov 9, 2017, edition about commissioner and resident frustration with Waste Pro.

    Waste Pro is not perfect. Do they occasionally mess up? Sure. Do they sometimes not live up to expectations and leave me frustrated? Sure. But I remember all too well their predecessor, Waste Management. Frankly, overall, Waste Pro’s performance is still light years ahead of the consistently poor performance of Waste Management; I will still take Waste Pro any day over Waste Management.

    Don White
    Flagler County

    Ms. Petito knows well of what I speak about Waste Management, as she endured my ire with their performance….or lack of it. Kudos to her for the outstanding job she continues to do for Flagler County. I know the County appreciates her outstanding contributions.

  9. Dan Potter says:

    I don’t understand the logic of the governments of Flagler County. Dog and pony show. I would say drain the swamp in Palm Coast but it has already happened. Sad.

  10. Dave says:

    I wonder how much money Waste Pro has “donated” to individual city and county commissioners. That would be a much better read than this corrupt bullshit political theater.

  11. DisgustedinPC says:

    Why can’t people just tell the truth? Mr Cinelli passed the buck. He ultimately is responsible. And as far as the number of complaints, either his staff did not report them to him or he just “fudged ” the numbers! I was calling at least twice every week over out ” non pickups”. They still, even after replacing the supervisor, have left ours. Along with the recycle. Shame on you Mr Cinelli and on mr McLaughlin for not doing their due diligence! Replace them both!

  12. Layla says:

    In a dozen years I’ve only had one complaint, that the truck left oil tracks and they came back and cleaned it up. I cannot complain about these guys. They’ve given my neighborhood good service.

  13. Bill Clay says:

    As one of the people who came to the commissioners meeting to complain, people need to understand at least in our case(Lakeside by the Sea). One person is calling for a community of 136 homes.Over the years we have complained many times. Missed pickup, leaving a mess, damage to waste cans. Refusing to pickup yard waste.
    Over the past two years the yard waste pickup has gone from bad to worst. We do not have a clue what the plan is for this week. What are the rules? We do not know them and have had responses all over the map.

    Do we or don’t use the Palm Coast rules? What about the 3’x3’x3′ rule for piles yes or no? We were told it had to be bagged…Tell us what the contract call for? We pay year round and they pick up and average of ten or twelve times a year.

    As I have said to Heidi P on more than one occasion, who is this god who decides if we are going to be picked up or not. Does the county actually work for Waste Pro or do they work for us the tax payer of Flagler County. The rate we pay went up this year and we are getting less for our hard earned money! Does not seem fair to us.

    When I was at the Commissioner Meeting one of the commissioners noted what great serve he received, right from his garage. We would be happy to just get it picked up from the end of our driveway, that is our expectation. We are paying for this service.

  14. Wishful Thinking says:

    County should insist that WastePro treat their employees fairly and compensate them properly.
    Having ‘lost’2 great regulars for no apparent reason and then finding out they were never shown the compliments I sent on their behalf I don’t believe the haulers and drivers are treated decently.
    The turnover of help and their sub-contracting help should be questioned by the county staff and the commissioner who initiated the original complaint to make sure we are not paying to fatten the pockets of the big cats and ignoring the ‘hired help’
    Commissioner McLaughlin’s sudden change of attitude toward WastePro management is pretty smelly to me..

  15. Percy's mother says:

    Bill Clay:
    Regarding your complaints . . .

    1. Missed pickup? Call City of Palm Coast Customer Service. They will take care of it. Simple.

    2. Leaving a mess. These workers have a hard enough job as it is jumping on and off a truck multiple times a day in the absolute worst climate conditions such as blazing sun with heatstroke conditions, torrential rain, etc. Can’t you get out there and pick up a bit of mess? (which is your own mess by the way).

    3. Damage to waste cans. What? Do you own the old fashioned aluminum cans? I don’t see how a heavy plastic container meant for garbage can be damaged. Does the lid come off? Can’t you put it back on?

    4. Yard waste. FOLLOW THE RULES!!!, which by the way are posted on City of Palm Coast website. After a hurricane BAG IT (as instructed on the City of Palm Coast website). It’s all very simple if you do a bit of investigating instead of wasting time complaining. Very often I see people put loose yard waste out and expect these poor men on the trucks to go above and beyond the call of duty to do YOUR job (which is follow the rules for yard waste pick up on the City of Palm Coast website). What’s so difficult about tying up your yard waste in 3 x 3 x 3 sections . . . so as to make it easier for these poor hardworking men to get the job done? Do YOUR PART of the job instead of berating others for not doing theirs (but they’re doing the best they can under the worst conditions).

    5. How about standing outside on a blaring hot day and asking these men if they would like a bottle of cold water? Have you ever thought about that? What a bloody miserable complainer you are.

    If you FOLLOW THE RULES/ INSTRUCTIONS, you’ll have nothing to complain about. On many an ungodly hot day, I’ve watched these men jumping on and off the trucks and taking care of messes created by lazy homeowners. Many a day I’ve heard them coming and stood at the roadside waiting for them and when they come to where I am, I look them in the eye and ask them if they need a cool drink or something to eat to give them energy to get their awful jobs done. Many a time when I look them in the eye, I see their exhaustion and it breaks my heart for them. A little decency towards another human being goes a long way. But some people like you, Bill Clay, love to complain and put people down. Glad I don’t live near you.

  16. jadobi says:

    I bought a new trash can a few years back, within 2 months, the lid was gone and the can was beat to hell, cracked and leaking. I put my can at the edge of the driveway where it belongs, only for them to toss it in the swale. I watched them do it and confronted them. This may sound lame, but we pay for service, and for our garbage cans which aren’t cheap. At the end of the day, each employee is a representative of Waste Pro. If you hate the job, give it up. I’m sure there is someone who will fill the spot.

  17. Kim says:

    Being from a large western city here is my view. 1/2 the issue is lazy homeowner/tenant and the other half Waste Pro. Issue every home two large garbage/recycle cans and mechanical pick up only (completely operated from inside the truck, both trash and recycle). If it doesn’t fit in the can it’s the homeowners responsibility to dispose of. Now open small free of charge transfer stations for the large and hazardous stuff. Now start fining these lazy people who leave junk all over the place when they know the garbage man can’t pick up a pool table.

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