Albemarle City Council, Waste Management reps discuss service problems

Published 3:21 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022

During Monday’s Albemarle City Council meeting, following a lengthy update from Marilyn Wells, regional manager for municipal and community relations with Waste Management (WM), a number of Albemarle’s elected officials expressed concern and dissatisfaction with current services provided by WM.

“Enough is enough,” replied Mayor Ronnie Michael to Wells at the conclusion of her report, commenting that the regular updates from WM to the city “sound like a broken record.”

“Our staff has been overwhelmed with complaints,” Michael continued, citing problems with the WM call center, and incomplete pick up of limbs and yard waste.

“Why aren’t we getting the service we pay for?” he asked.

Councilman Dexter Townsend also expressed frustration.

“There is no consistency in the service,” he said.

Townsend added that monthly reports which WM had earlier agreed to provide have not been
submitted.

“We asked that you provide us with monthly call center records,” he said. “That has not happened.”

Wells, who had earlier reported that factors such as fewer commercially-licensed drivers and an increase in recent service disruptions had affected local pickup schedules, noted that WM “continues to hire drivers” and has “increased accountability” for them, agreed that work  remains to be done.

“We are not where we want to be,” she said, “but with additional resources that provide training and coaching of our route drivers, this should improve.”

Councilman Benton Dry reiterated concerns with city staff receiving complaints over WM’s service.

“We’ve got to eliminate city staff taking heat for you,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Martha Sue Hall also added that her own Facebook account has been “blown up” as a result of inadequate service by WM.

In an email inquiry following the meeting, City Manager Michael Ferris cited a number of issues with recycling and yard waste collection that have stoked complaints from city residents.

“As the mayor said last night, it has been taking place for quite a while now. We certainly understand temporary issues and things that are out of anyone’s control. However, it has been occurring for so long that enough is enough and we just need the service we pay for.”

Ferris added that city residents who have levied complaints directly to WM have seen either no response or no improvement in service.

“Exacerbating this issue is we get regular messages about calls not being returned by WM or promises made for service corrections that never occur. Customers then call in to the city, as they should because we pay for the service. Our frustration is with the service and no consistent resolution after all this time. We end up paying for services that we are having to be way more involved in than we should. We want to receive the service we pay for and expect.”

Councilwoman Shirley Lowder expressed disagreement with the manner in which her colleagues expressed their concerns.

“I’m sorry you had to hear these complaints in front of new people,” Lowder said to Wells, who was accompanied by three fellow WM managers, one of whom was on his first day on the job.

Lowder also volunteered to ride along with one of the WM drivers, but Wells noted that safety regulations prohibit this, offering to accompany Lowder in following a truck in her own vehicle.

“We need to see what’s going on; some of us need to do that,” Lowder added. “New people don’t deserve this.”

Wells added that she would investigate why the requested reports cited by Townsend have not been submitted, and that WM management would work on addressing the city’s concerns.