Last week Palm Coast government issued Waste Pro, the city’s garbage hauler since 2007, a seven-day notice: shape up, or the $9 million contract with the city is severed for cause.
Waste pro service had again faltered severely, principally with missed routes and garbage left to rot in the sun in scenes worthier of shanty towns than Palm Coast. Fines the city levies against the company climbed for six successive months, topping $10,000 in May, a level last exceeded (twice) in 2019. The company was put on notice back then. And again in April, when a Waste Pro vice president for regional operations said the problem would be “corrected within a couple of weeks.” It wasn’t, causing the city again to issue a seven-day warning.
On Wednesday, three Waste Pro representatives–Corporate Vice President of Municipal Marketing Tim Dolan, Regional Vice President Brian Wintjen, and Division Manager Heather Badger-Felmet–met with Palm Coast officials and again pledged to do better.
“They have purchased three new trucks, they have exponentially increased the wages for their current employees and for their new hires,” Brittany Kershaw, the city’s chief spokesperson, who was part of the meeting, said this morning. “They have also implemented a sign-on bonus, I believe it was $2,000, for people who come on board. They’re actively working at job fairs trying to find drivers and haulers. They’ve also contacted with another hauler to help with the routes.”
Drivers, for example, were making $140 a day, or $36,400 a year. They will now be making $175 a day, or $45,500 a year. Kershaw did not have rates for other employees or who the temporary haulers are and what their trucks would look like.
“We want to be sensitive to the issues the Waste Pro and many organizations across the country have been experiencing over the past year or so,” Palm Coast Interim City Manager Denise Bevan said in a release. “We’re committed to working together with Waste Pro to come up with a solution that best serves the residents of Palm Coast.” (Other than Bevan and Kershaw, city officials taking part in the meeting with Waste Pro included Fire Chief Jerry Forte, Chief of Staff Lauren Johnston, Citizen Engagement Director Cynthia Schweers, and Customer Service Supervisor Lisa Asbill.)
Waste Pro’s plan read as follows, as signed by Wintjen:
- We are caught up with all services currently.
- All routes are covered for Tuesday June 1, 2021.
- Along with holding job fairs we are running local radio ad’s for available positions.
- We have made arrangements with Flagler Technical College to speak with students enrolled in the truck driving school.
- We have purchased and received three brand new Rear-loader trucks.
- We have hired two additional Drivers and we have made offers to three more.
- We are utilizing additional Temporary Labor services and have obtained additional helpers.
- As stated in my email dated on April 1, 2021, we have given wage increases to all of our current drivers and helpers. We have increased pay to our temporary helpers. We have increased starting pay for new employees and we are offering sign-on bonuses.
- We are looking at other disposal options that may reduce disposal trip time.
- We have hired a 3rd party waste collector who will work with us beginning June 1 to assist us on any routes needing assistance. We will add additional 3rd party help as needed.
- We have promoted two addition supervisors and two more office staff employees.
“Through the use of a corporate recruiter focused on the Palm Coast area, we have enhanced our recruiting efforts as well as increased our participation in local job fairs – we hosted three in the recent weeks,” the plan states. “Retention and referral bonuses have also been implemented and a market rate adjustment was recently completed. We appreciate your patience and the support of our community as we continue to navigate through these unprecedented times.”
The first two paragraphs of the company’s “Service Plan” are the word-for-word replica of an answer by Melissa Catalanotto, the company’s corporate communications manager, to reporters last week after inquiries about the company’s difficulties in Palm Coast. “Like other industries, we are not immune to the ongoing nationwide driver and labor pool shortages that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The demand for qualified drivers currently outpaces supply,” Catalanotto and the Service Plan state.
The statement then goes on to repeat false and repeatedly debunked claims, implicitly insulting the very workers the company is trying to hire, that government assistance related to the pandemic “have made it more attractive for many people to not work.”
In other words, it’s not Waste Pro’s fault. It’s the workers’.
In fact, Waste Pro itself provided the very rationales about work shortages in the industry back in 2019, when its service was severely lacking in Palm Coast, and when there were no stimulus checks or extra unemployment benefits to speak of. Its significant increase in pay for workers is an acknowledgement that wages were too low. And Catalanotto, in her answer to reporters, attached a report from the Solid Waste Association of North America “addressing the labor shortage in solid waste collection services” that cites many other issues predating stimulus checks.
The report cites a difficult hiring climate, “particularly in Florida” (the state with one of the stingiest and shortest unemployment benefit in the nation). “Truck driver shortages have been well documented due to the strong economy and increased demand for trucking services caused in part by the substantial growth in online shopping and home delivery services,” the report states. “Additional causes include the aging workforce and more stringent driver requirements at the federal level.” While the pandemic has had an effect on hauling, the report lists those effects as increased garbage tonnage, covid illnesses, school closures, and the lack of affordable child care options, forcing parents to stay home. “These impacts are being experienced by many other service industries, including the restaurant industry.” It then cites “extended unemployment benefits and stimulus checks,” though again without explaining how the same challenges previously cited–tonnage aside–long pre-dated the pandemic.
If Waste Pro again falters, then the city would again issue a seven-day warning, Kershaw said. But at what point would the cycle end? ““I don’t know at which point it gets escalated beyond that,” Kershaw said.
The city is in the midst of preparing to issue a request for proposal for the next garbage hauler contract, since the contract with Waste Pro ends in 2022. The RFP is not the result of the city’s difficulties with Waste Pro. It was in the works regardless, as it has been every five years. But Waste Pro’s chronic difficulties could damage the company’s chances, even though two thirds of residents in a recent city survey cited themselves satisfied with their garbage service. (In comparison, over 90 percent are satisfied with police, fire and feeling safe).
Well they didn’t do so good this week half the home that had tree waste and other throw a ways are still there after 2 weeks!
Donald C. Copeland Copeland says
I live in the B section and think the Waste Pro employees I have come in contact with are top notch.
All things considered I like the overall service I get from Waste Pro on Becket La..
Promises are empty. Hasn’t this company been making promises whenever their service falls short.
Blaming the workers my ass. The two men who pick up our Tuesday, and Friday trash are excellent.
There isn’t a worker shortage there is a WAGE shortage.
These workers are paid by the day.
Go to a safety meeting, that’s on the workers dime, they are paid by the day.
If they have to cover part of another route, too bad, they are paid by the day.
“Waste Pro’s plan read as follows, as signed by Wintjen:
We are caught up with all services currently.
All routes are covered for Tuesday June 1, 2021.”
Bull crap. The environmental recycles are still sitting in the driveway from a scheduled Wednesday pickup.
No lawn debris pick up on Wednesday and my Thursday trash is still at the curb at 8:26 p.m.
Ria Geary says
I have been very satisfied with the service Waste Pro has provided.
A few weeks ago I was driving behind one of their trucks..there was a large branch in the road..the driver stopped the truck and one of the workers removed it..I was very grateful, as I would have liked to do it myself; but I knew was too heavy for me..
Up to that point, everyone was just trying to go around it..they didn’t have to do that..thankful…
I’ve watched this company for years since I’ve lived here and their wages SUCK! Just last year their pay rate for helpers was $9 an hour. They currently have an open dispatcher position that pays less than a driver and I’ll be the first to tell you that’s another pay rate that sucks! (Yes I’ve been a dispatcher since 1994 but now medically retired) You never pay by the day as some routes could be shorter or longer (depending on who’s making the route plans) these guys are expected to work 6am-6pm and I never see them taking a lunch or a break which by law is required. Now compare that to OTR drivers who run Florida only are making between 500-1000 per day and still home every night. Most companies won’t even hire someone fresh out of FTC drivers program as they still need a year of driving experience. It’s not all cut and dry as Waste Pro is making it seem and seems to be an issue with their management.
$20,000. in fines paid to the city in 2019 and the total for 2021 keeps climbing. When will the residents that are paying monthly for this service see a creditor or reduction on their invoices for services that were not rendered in compliance with the Contract?
They promise they will do better, I’m not believing it for one second, because they have used the same line before and nothing changed.
I think it’s past time to look for another waste pick up company. Or Palm Coast should start their own like Bunnell did yrs. ago. JMO
Dennis C Rathsam says
Excuses…Everybody’s got one and they ALL STINK! Ive lived in 4 diffent states before comming to Palm Coast. Waste Pro is the worst garbagemen in the industry. I hope the new mayor will have the guts to terminate thier contract. Too many complaints, poor quailty of work, they have grown complasent, and dont care….They just keep paying the fines, and our services decline.
Percy's mother says
In all the time I’ve lived in Palm Coast, (a long time), I’ve never had an issue with WastePro. I’m also usually out in the community talking to people and picking their brains. No one I’ve talked to has had or has an issue with WastePro (garbage pickup or recycling). Though, I also treat the WastePro workers with respect and consideration. If I’m outside when they come along, I always offer an electrolyte replacement drink, an extra bottle of water and some food to fuel their bodies. In other words, I treat them with respect, appreciation, consideration and as if they are actual human beings doing their best to work a job in mostly heat stroke conditions.
As usual, could it be the continual vocal verbally abusive complainers that make things rough for everyone else in Palm Coast? “My garbage can was left IN THE MIDDLE OF MY DRIVEWAY”. “THEY LEFT MY THREE COUCHES”. “THEY LEFT ALL MY FURNITURE AND A WASHING MACHINE”. The continual complainers about everything, including the mayor and city council, would make it seem that EVERYONE in Palm Coast is up in arms about garbage / recycling pickup in Palm Coast. That is not the case. 100% of the people I’ve spoken to around town have had NO complaints with WastePro.
That being said, here are the requirements directly from WastePro for working on a garbage / recycling route: So after you read the requirements, ask yourself if you could do it, all the while being paid low wages with nonstop verbal abuse from “some” residents as well enduring the terrible Florida heat and humidity.
As an aside, in addition to increasing worker pay, perhaps WastePro should institute some work aids to help these workers get the job done so they don’t suffer health deficits such as heat stroke or torn muscles and ligaments: That would include, hats with front and back flaps to shield their heads and necks from the intense sun and heat as well as electrolyte replacement packets that can be added to bottled water so they can maintain their electrolyte balances. In case you people don’t know, electrolyte imbalances can lead to heart arrhythmia and stroke.
Could any of you vocal and verbally vulgar complainers jump on and off a truck 1000 times a day all the while lifting 50+ pounds of trash in the Florida heat and humidity? Have any of you vocal and verbally abusive vulgar complainers ever thought to offer these workers a bottle of water?
Special Considerations/Physical Work Requirements: Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of the job.
1. Physically able to push or pull independently (unassisted) 50 pounds between 800 and 1000 times a day
2. Physically able to lift independently (unassisted) 50 pounds from the ground to waist height between 800 and 1000 times a day
3. Physically able to get up and down from the cab of a commercial motor vehicle between 800 and 1000 times a day
4. Physically able to bend at the waist and knees between 800 and 1000 times a day
5. Physically able to work 8 to 12 hours in extreme weather conditions(heat, cold, rain and snow)
6. Ability to ride on the outside of the truck while servicing residential customers in low MPH areas
What con, blaming the hard working employees. Waste Pro management is the industries worst managers.
Waste Pro has been under performing for years.
They have had two deaths and flipped several trucks over since the start of this contract and worse since 2018.
The City of Palm Coast must be careful to not let Waste Pro run the plan it improve services.
The City needs to tell them what to do or nothing will improve.
Like I said the excuses of the executive management team are nothing but a “con job!”
Palm Coast City Managers beware….
I had yard waste sitting for a month. I had to get some of it hauled away and left them one tree limb. My husband literally watched them ride right by it and when he yelled out to them as they were passing, they just looked at him and kept going. When we called about it, they were trying to charge to come back out smh. My neighbors put out big items for the trash yesterday. They picked through and took what they wanted to put on the truck and left everything else on the curb. A complete mess and it won’t get better any time soon.
The City is planning to contract with them for at least two more years?
Can someone from the City care to explain?
What’s this exclusive RFP about?
Why was Waste Pro management really there the day after the new City Managers were appointed?
Don’t get conned, and don’t waste taxpayers monies with poor services.
Be transparent with us or you will both need to find new jobs……
D. Edward says
Personally I have nothing but respect for the Wast Pro workers, they are always pleasant, wave when they see me and pick up everything I put out for pickup. What more can be expected? In the entire time Waste Pro has been under contract with the city, they have never ever missed a pickup.