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Cape residents to pay more, get more, in trash collection

By Staff | Jun 4, 2020

Trash collection is something many people take for granted. You put the trash out on Tuesday evening and by the time you get home from work on Wednesday, the trash receptacle is empty.

When it doesn’t get picked up, people are unhappy. And for a time in the city of Cape Coral, it was happening far too often for residents’ liking.

There were instances of bulk items sitting on the side of the roads, sometimes for weeks at a time. Homeowners who lived in areas where the Utilities Expansion Project was happening went through the same thing.

Waste-Pro, the company in charge of garbage pickup, faced the real possibility of losing its contract with the city. However, by listening to the residents and the city government, it rectified these problems and committed to additional services.

On Monday, the City Council unanimously approved a seven-year contract for Waste-Pro to continue providing trash service to city residents, that includes a three-year mutual extension.

“Waste Pro is pleased with the city’s decision to extend our services and we look forward to working with the city and our customers as we continue to grow together,” said Bill Jones, operations manager, in an e-mail.

The pact will increase the rate of waste collection by 7 percent in 2021 and one percent each the following two fiscal years. There will be no annual CPI increase next year, but will for the remainder of the deal if council approves.

Most important to many, the new deal establishes a weekly bulk pickup day and a process for non-compliant bulk. Other residential and commercial waste pickup will remain largely unchanged.

Councilmember Jennifer Nelson, who took the issue head on, said she is very pleased with the agreement and that the situation is a complete 180 from what was happening when she took office in late 2017.

“We were receiving hundreds of e-mails on the issues, pick-up, logistical issues, all kinds of things. It was a mess,” Nelson said. “In 2018, I did a ride-along with a Waste-Pro truck driver and met their new operations manager (Jones), and realized the real issue was they didn’t have enough trucks on the road to handle our growth.”

“Nelson was able to see some of the day-to-day challenges faced by our employees first-hand. This, combined with her background in Solid Waste issues, helped all of us focus our efforts and develop new programs to assist current and future residents of Cape Coral,” Jones said in an e-mail.

Within a month, Jones put more trucks on the road, which helped alleviate many of the pickup problems.

As for the future, the UEP areas are still an issue. Nelson said more communication between the contractors and Waste-Pro will help. She also said a new transfer station will be discussed.

“We would have residents bring items there or be able to bring bulk items there and transfer it to the Lee County waste to energy plant,” Nelson said.

Bulk waste is another area that has been an issue. Nelson said the move-outs and foreclosures have been the problem.

“When people move out, they tend to bring all their belongings out to the road and leave it there. We don’t usually know about it until a resident calls to complain,” Nelson said. “We’re looking to put together a bulk ordinance.”

The new agreement will create specific service days for bulk items in each area of the city. Waste-Pro also will work with city staff and Code Enforcement to develop a program to remove non-compliant bulk in a timely manner.

Jones said Waste-Pro will use new technologies and put new trucks on the road.

“We will be deploying new model trucks, improving service while reducing the potential for leaks, spills and litter,” Jones said, adding those new trucks are already being deployed.

Nelson said she feels confident that the major issues have been resolved since they now understand the growth that’s happening in the city.

“They see the percentage of growth monthly on the new houses and are able to keep up with that. I’m confident they’re going to get some new trucks to replace the old ones and have them covered so loose trash doesn’t fly out,” Nelson said.