Waste Management

Omaha’s trash hauler, Waste Management, struggled to catch up on curbside pickup after a May hailstorm. A city official said late-collection complaints for July could lead to another deduction from the company’s pay.

Mayor Jean Stothert promised in June that Omaha would make its trash hauler pay for days of delays in the collection of curbside waste.

The city followed through, notifying Waste Management that it will withhold almost $90,000 for delayed collections around Memorial Day.

The city pays Waste Management $15 million a year, including $480,000 a month for yard waste collection and about $900,000 a month for trash and recycling.

Omaha resident Brandon Noel, 24, said his garbage sat out two extra days.

He said he appreciated the city taking action.

He hasn’t had any problems since, he said.

“I think they did the right thing,” Noel said of the city exercising its contract rights. “Especially if I’m the person paying them $15 million.”

The city can reduce its trash contract payments in any month it verifies more than 1,000 late garbage or recycling pickup complaints or 700 for yard waste.

In May, the city verified 2,695 late pickup complaints for garbage or recycling. In June, it verified 3,224.

And the city says more people waited than complained.

Under Omaha’s contract with Waste Management, verified complaints must be reported to the city to qualify.

In late May and early June, callers sometimes encountered busy signals when they tried to report missed collections to the Mayor’s Hotline.

Catching up in some parts of the city took Waste Management as long as two weeks, particularly for recycling pickup, because it used those drivers to help.

The company apologized in June, blaming the delays on a holiday weekend hailstorm it said drove up the amount of yard waste Omahans put out.

Collections were further slowed by yard waste that was wetter and heavier than usual, the company said.

Many at City Hall speculated that a shortage of drivers and garbage collectors contributed to the slowdown. The company is actively hiring local workers.

Waste Management also had trouble with yard waste in May and June 2018, with 1,300 complaints in May and 1,400 in June, the Public Works Department said.

The city fined the company about $56,000. It continues to cut Waste Management’s pay for combining trash and yard waste instead of collecting it separately, as is required under its contract.

On Friday, Waste Management called Omaha’s current trash contract, which requires picking up unlimited yard waste by hand, unsustainable.

The city is in the process of selecting a new waste hauler, and the new contract, effective January 2021, is expected to have at least some limits on yard waste pickup.

Regional spokeswoman Lisa Disbrow said Waste Management continues to hire more help but cited the challenges of a “physically demanding job.”

Collection complaints are down a little bit this month, said Jim Kee, the city’s environmental quality control manager.

But, Kee said, reports are still coming in at a pace that could lead to another deduction from Waste Management’s pay.

Aaron covers political news for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @asanderford. Phone: 402-444-1135.

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