INVESTIGATES: No timetable on when curbside recycling returns to Jacksonville, city official says

Brian Hughes, the Chief Administrative Officer for the city, told Jacksonville City Council members there really is no return in sight yet.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — UPDATE 11 p.m.:

Curbside recycling remains on hold and there’s no timeline for when it’s coming back.

Several city council members want a legitimate plan in place to bring things back to normal, but the city tells Action News Jax the plan is comprehensive.

Since October, Don Todd has done what many other residents of Jacksonville have been doing — making trips to recycling drop-off sites on a weekly basis.

“I could be doing something else right now,” he said.

Several Jacksonville City Council members met with contractors and city officials like Chief Administration Officer Brian Hughes, who say there’s no timeline for its return.

“I’d give you an arbitrary date, we can one out of thin air if you’d like. Whether we get that date or not, it won’t matter because until the back-end resource issue is fixed, we can bring curbside back,” he said. “If you all pass a resolution saying ‘we don’t care about it bring curbside back,’ we will do it next week but then a week later, yard waste, bulk waste and trash will be back in the thousands of missed collections.”

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Regardless of fines, haulers said it’s not a financial issue, but a labor issue. Private contractors said they’re down roughly 32 drivers to run a sufficient operation.

Waste Pro is down roughly 20 drivers, Waste Management needs about 12 drivers and Meridian said they’re fully staffed but do have drivers out with COVID-19 related issues and are always looking to recruit.

Action News Jax tried speaking with the haulers directly but only a Waste Pro representative talked with us on camera. We asked how long they think it will take to fill the positions.

“It’s very difficult, a difficult question to answer and I’ve been tackling this for 5 years now,” David Searcy with Waste Pro said. “They spoke on it here and there’s a lot of things in the contract that have to be assured up and we need to get on a level playing field in my thoughts.”

Council members like Matt Carlucci say they’ve heard enough about problems and want some accountability.

“I think each of the haulers have to bring to us what their plans are in order to get back to the standard that our service and city that public expects,” he said.

The city says part of that plan would be adding transfer stations into the mix, saying that when the trucks fill up, it can take too long of a trip and they’re unable to continue the original pickup route.

Meanwhile, the city charges an annual fee of $151.83 to each household even though services are lacking. Those who want a refund probably won’t see it because the money is already tied up and the program already operates at a deficit.

“The rest of the city budget is already in some way, sort of augmenting the cost of solid waste so that’s only macro level of what the fee does,” Hughes said.

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For residents like Todd, he thinks this has gotten out of control.

“It sounds like our city government is not managing this too well,” he said.

At the meeting, there was also talk about dropping the annual fee but it would have to be brought up to the city council.

The city council would use the city’s enterprise fund to get rid of the charge to residents and they would see how exactly it works in the books for the budget. The council said all options are being explored at the moment.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Jacksonville City Council members spoke with waste collector contract haulers on Thursday afternoon on what’s being done to fix the city’s recycling problem.

We’ve been telling you about the missed collections for months.

RELATED: The City of Jacksonville recycling breakdown

Action News Jax’s Ben Ryan was at the meeting and city representatives said there’s no timeline for curbside recycling to return.

There’s been a lot of back and forth on if there are any legitimate plans to fix the issue, but city representatives say unless we want to go back to square one with issues such as missed collections, there’s no timeline for a return on curbside recycling.

Contractors and the city continue to stress the hiring shortage and how many drivers they’re short to run a sufficient operation.

INVESTIGATES: Over $142K spent on overtime to collect recycling

Waste Management reps said it currently needs 12 more drivers to be fully staffed.

Waste Pro sits at about 12 drivers short, specified as 6 drivers short to run routes currently, but to cover call-outs, they’re about 20 drivers short.

Meridian Waste said they are currently fully staffed, but have a number of drivers out who are COVID-19 positive or who have been exposed and are following guidelines, so they are still recruiting drivers with a commercial drivers license.

RELATED: City temporarily suspends curbside recycling in Jacksonville

Brian Hughes, the Chief Administrative Officer for the city, told council members there really is no return in sight yet.

“I can give you an arbitrary date, I can pick one out of thin air if you’d like, and whether we hit that date or not won’t matter, because until the back-end resource issue is fixed ... we can bring curbside back. If you all pass a resolution saying, ‘we don’t care, bring curbside back,’ we’ll do it next week, and then a week later, yard waste, bulk waste, and trash will be back in the thousands of missed collections,” Hughes said.

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