Polk County Publishing Company, P.O. Box 1267, Livingston, TX. 77351 - (936) 327-4357

Houston County Courier - Local News

Copyright 2017 - Polk County Publishing Company


County Complaints About Waste Pickup


By Alton Porter
News Reporter

Some Houston County customers of Waste Connections have complained that the solid waste collection, transfer, disposal and recycling company hasn't picked up their garbage sometimes for up to three weeks. So, the Houston County Commissioners Court, which has a contract for waste collection and disposal with the company for county residents had company representatives appear before the court and respond to the complaints at a meeting Thursday, Nov. 16. In bringing the matter before the court at the meeting, Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen, who was presiding in the absence of Judge Jim Lovell, said he and other commissioners have "had some complaints from (Waste Connections) customers as to poor service, lack of (service)— those sorts of things—and that trash has not been picked up— sometimes they said for three weeks—and things of that nature. "And we wanted you (Waste Connections representatives) to come to have the opportunity to defend, respond—however you want to say that. The news media is here. We felt it was unfair for that conversation to be one-sided. So, with that being said, do you have any positive comments are anything— we've been working on trucks or something. We just need an update on where we're at on the service. Representing Waste Connections, formerly Progressive Waste Solutions, at the meeting were its Operations Supervisor Chris Bankhead and Site Manager Todd Gibbs. Gibbs did the speaking for the company. "It's kind of a multi-tiered issue," Gibbs said. "We've got, as you know … we've got roads … when it rains, we've got trucks that weigh 20 to 25 tons (about 50,000 pounds when fully loaded). "Some of the complaints we hear are that—'Come and pick up my trash. The school bus can come down this road.' "Well, that's true, but a school bus doesn't weigh much more than an excursion. We weigh multiple times of a school bus. The school bus runs on top. With the weight that we have, we sink down. And then, a lot of times when we sink down, we also slide off the road. We've been stuck multiple times." Gibbs continued, "We have basically a list of roads that we just can't pass through because of the concern of, number one, that we're going to get stuck. Then, we have to get pulled out. "We still get stuck. There are a lot of roads that are not on the list that we get stuck on and we get pulled out because we made it down there before. "The … concern is that when we're going down the road, that we slide off. And then, we turn the truck over and damage the truck. "We've actually bought two new trucks to run in Houston County. They were supposed to be delivered in October— mid-October. We still have not seen them. We contacted the manufacturer and they've been delayed and stuff. Now, they're telling us sometime toward the end of November we'll get the first one. They're not sure on the second one. They're saying sometime probably in December." Gibbs added, "That still is not going to help that much. That's just to tell you that we've spent—those trucks are $344,000 that we just bought. That's part of it. "Some of it (the company's failure to pick up some garbage on schedule) has been some truck issues. One of the issues is caused by what Gibbs called a regen system in the trucks that does not work properly in the trucks because they start and stop often. "That's our problem and we're constantly working to fix it. That's one of the reasons we decided that new trucks would be a benefit for us out here in Houston County. "When it is dry, it is dusty. Then, when it's wet, it's muddy. So, that's part of the deal." Gibbs explained, "We did talk a few months ago with Judge Lovell. And we talked to him about putting carts at all of the houses that are subscribing with us for them to have something to put their trash in. "There are a few (subscribers) out there that built their own bins. We've got totes that have had the tops cut off of them that they put their trash in and stuff, but as a majority, everybody puts out trash bags. "And the problem is, when we can't get down there, then as you know, the varmints, even/ or the household cats or dogs or whatever, get into the trash and strow the trash. "With a cart, it's an enclosed deal. And one of the things I thought of is, like places we know we can't get down (to), giving them maybe some multiple carts. So that when we can't get down to them, they've got another place to store their trash until we can. "The other thing is—another complaint that we get is—well, there's rock in front of our house because the county has come in and rocked (the road) in front of their house. "Our problem is, the mile that we go to get down to that house, we can't get through. Now, when we get to the house, yes, it's rocked. And we drive there, fine. But, there are areas to and past (that house) where we can't get in and out. "One of the things I thought of, too, was to see if we couldn't kind of work together, and say, 'Hey, here are some areas maybe that we could help you all with because we go down pretty much every road you've got.' And say, 'Hey, could we get some rock over in this area.' I don't know if you all would be interested in our input or not, but I was just thinking that might be another solution (to make impassable roads passable)." Noting that the garbage trucks weigh so much, Precinct 1 Commissioner Gary Lovell said, "These trucks do a lot of damage to (county dirt) roads when (the roads) are wet. Commissioner Lovell said he suggested several months ago that Waste Connections garbage collectors use one-ton trucks with a small trailer to pickup garbage when the roads are in that condition "instead of putting 50,000 pounds over these roads." "It's not just you all getting stuck; it's you all doing major damage to these roads when you haul 50,000 pounds over a wet road," Commissioner Lovell said. "Get some of these (small trucks) when you've got bad weather. It will save you all problems and us problems also." Gibbs said, "We have done that on occasion. The problem we get into when we do that is it takes a lot longer. And so, we can't complete a route with a truck and a trailer. And also, we get multiple loads that we then have to take to Palestine to dump. We just can't get a route picked up that way." Kitchen suggested stationing a regular garbage truck at paved "collection stations" during rainy weather and using oneton trucks with trailers to haul trash from the wet county roads to the larger trucks during those conditions. Gibbs responded, that would make it necessary to increase the number of people the company would need to collect the garbage and ultimately dramatically increasing the cost to the company of doing the job. Gibbs and Bankhead said there are some 15 to 20 county roads that unusually present problems for trucks driven by garbage collectors during wet weather, and Kitchen asked them to make note of the bad spots on the roads and notify county officials so they can make efforts to make improvements at those locations. Precinct 1 Constable Morris Luker, who is in charge of illegal dumping investigations and commercial vehicle enforcement on county roads, said he has been alerted of instances where bags of trash have fallen off the Waste Connections garbage trucks. However, he said the company's staff members "do allow me to bring what is too big to go in you all's county dumpsters at the road barns when I clean up these dump sites (some of them illegal sites) to the (company's) dump site free of charge. "If we get a list of these roads (that are impassable for garbage trucks when wet) … I can go down through there at the same time to double check to make sure that's the problem we're having instead of just someone going down and doing an illegal dump and throwing something outside the truck. That will help me at the same time. We can all get together on that, as well." Keeping it Simple! Hwy 287 S • Grapeland • 936-687-2014 • 800-CUTSHAW


Polk County Publishing Company