The City of Omaha will fine its trash hauler $27,634 for excessive complaints and missed pickups last month.
Mayor Jean Stothert also plans to negotiate with Waste Management to lower its fees for not picking up yard waste separately from garbage.
Stothert said the city has been patient with Waste Management but expects the company to provide residents consistent and quality service.
Last month, the city received 1,227 complaints about garbage and recycling collection and 648 complaints about yard waste pickup. City staff had to cover 16 collections that Waste Management missed.
“Waste Management needs to own this problem,” Stothert said.
This is the fourth year the hauler has had problems picking up the city’s yard waste and garbage separately.
Last month, two members of the City Council, Pete Festersen and Chris Jerram, urged the administration to hold Waste Management to its contract.
“I’m pleased some action is finally being taken to enforce the provisions of the contract,” Festersen said Friday. “As a supporter of composting, however, I’m concerned that yard waste is just going to the landfill.”
Waste Management is supposed to collect the city’s yard waste separately from garbage from April to about Thanksgiving. The city pays for that service, more than $3 per household monthly.
Yard waste is supposed to go to the city’s composting facility . Yard waste mixed with garbage, however, goes to the landfill.
Waste Management has said that a national driver shortage is preventing it from staffing routes to collect yard waste separately.
The company started citywide separate collection late this year but said it hoped to hire enough drivers to reach the whole city by June 11. That didn’t happen.
In fact, Waste Management has lost drivers. It needs 97 drivers to pick up yard waste separately from garbage across the city, said spokeswoman Lisa Disbrow, but currently has 73.
Now, Waste Management is picking up yard waste separately from residences between Interstate 680 and 72nd Street.
Disbrow encouraged people to apply during the company’s next job fair June 29-30.
She said the company agrees “100 percent with the city that servicing the residents on their scheduled collection day is the first priority.”
“We apologize to residents that have experienced delays,” she said.
Stothert said the city “still desires the separate collection of yard waste to the extent that this is possible” while picking up waste the day it’s set out.
She said the city could negotiate a reduced tipping fee or a lower per-household yard waste charge or both from June to November.
“When it’s commingled and more material goes to landfill, they profit from it because they own the landfill,” she said. “There has to be some adjustments made.”
The contract also allows the city to penalize the company $1,000 per occurrence per day for “major violations” including collecting garbage and yard waste together.
But the city’s public works director can, at his discretion, allow the company to deviate from the contract if the company submits a plan of operations to the city.
Councilman Brinker Harding said he’s glad the city is taking action against the company for excessive complaints but believes Waste Management is committing major violations.
“Going forward, we should make sure that we don’t accept variations of the plan and enforce the letter of the contract as it relates to major violations,” he said.