POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — For the second time this year, county commissioners declared a state of emergency regarding trash pickup delays.
The difference this time – it involves the eastern half of the county, where services are provided by Waste Management (WM).
“We’re trying to find somebody that can come in quickly and do the work behind these contractors who have just been failing miserably for the last year and a half,” commissioner Neil Combee said.
Complaints began in the summer of 2021, largely on the western side of Polk County.
The contracted hauler for that portion of the county is FCC Environmental Services.
An emergency declaration was issued in February for delays by FCC.
“FCC has improved. They’re not doing the best job in the world, but they’re certainly doing a lot better than they were this time last year,” Combee said.
Now, complaints are pouring in from eastern Polk County, where WM is responsible for hauling.
One county employee told News Channel 8 she could not step away from her desk because calls were coming in so often Monday morning.
“Waste Management being the largest company in the country,” Combee said. “You would expect they would find a way to solve this but heretofore it has not happened.”
The eastern portion of the county is the fastest-growing area in one of the country’s fastest-growing counties.
“That’s a curveball for folks that bid on an area and in a short amount of time it really changes,” Combee said. “You’ve got a whole lot of new customers, new routes, and they seem to be kind of slow to react to that and get those folks built into the system and make sure they pick it up.”
According to WM, the company has 13 trucks in need of repair and a two-month-long waitlist for parts.
Eighty trucks were also destroyed on Fort Myers Beach during Hurricane Ian, the loss of which had a ripple effect across the state.
“Due to labor shortages and supply chain issues that impact the maintenance of our trucks, WM acknowledges and is very aware that the recent service in Polk County has not met our high standards,” WM director of communications Dawn McCormick told News Channel 8.
McCormick expects to be caught up within 60-90 days.
“Six days after declaring the emergency and haven’t hired anybody yet,” Combee said. “Maybe it’ll be another six days, maybe longer, I don’t know. There’s some people who I think they were hoping might show an interest in it, and they’re not really interested in it.”
The county has already purchased trucks to pick up trash in the southwest area of the county.
Combee said more dump trucks may be added to the fleet, though it takes months for a new truck to arrive.