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Residents trash talk Republic

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Published:   |   Updated: August 5, 2013 at 10:26 AM

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BROOKSVILLE - Recurring complaints of missed trash pick-ups and clogged customer communication lines forced county commissioners to chastise Republic Services Inc. a year ago.

And just when it was believed that conditions had improved, the same problems have resurfaced, at least according to County Commissioner Jim Adkins.

Adkins said he is fielding scores of calls from customers complaining of missed pick-ups and lengthy phone delays. He said there is no reason for such a large company to have recurring problems and will seek answers.

"This is pathetic," Adkins said. "You would think they would have better customer service. This is a large company, all across the nation. They need to straighten up their act."

But County Commissioner Diane Rowden said she has had few complaints. In fact, she received a letter from The Heather, off U.S. 19, praising the company for its recent pick-ups of heavy trash collections.

"When you're dealing with as many households as they're picking up, there's always going to be, every now and then, a missed home or someone who didn't get their trash out on time," Rowden said.

Rowden knows the inner workings of the company, having worked for Republic as a contract employee when it was first hired to take over the trash hauling duties for Hernando County.

She thinks many of the customer service complaints result when the billing cycle comes around for those who live in the mandatory collection area of Spring Hill.

"Everyone there is required to have trash service, but what's happening is that people aren't paying their bills, and I think a lot of them are thinking it's because it's already included in their assessment or something," Rowden said.

Republic Services Inc. took over the sole hauling franchise contract with Hernando County on Jan. 1, 2012 and almost immediately was inundated with complaints.

County commissioners were forced to call a face-to-face meeting with Republic representatives to seek solutions.

Adkins said Republic needs to develop a route book to alleviate the problem of having substitute haulers unfamiliar with the pick-up area.

Also, the company's customer service skills need to be enhanced, he said.

County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said he has received emails from customers and forwarded them to Republic Services.

"Maybe it's time to tighten down a little bit," Russell said of the problem. "I'll certainly look into it."

Commissioner Wayne Dukes said he's received one or two complaints in the last couple weeks, but that's been all.

Director of Environmental Services Susan Goebel said she hasn't had an increase in complaints in the last few months. She said the company had a high turnover rate about six months ago but had not heard anything further.

Goebel said there were isolated reports of missed collections in Timber Pines last week when six roads were paved and haulers delayed collections one day.

Hernando Today attempted to contact Randy Canal, general manager of Republic Services. But after two calls, totaling a combined wait time of 35 minutes, he could not be reached.

Meanwhile, Goebel said negotiations with the company continue regarding a voluntary automated garbage pick-up system.

Specifically, the customer would roll out a 30-100-gallon cart with a tight-fitting hinge to the curb. A mechanical arm on the hauler's truck would lift the can, empty it and place it back on the ground.

Republic is still trying to negotiate with homeowners' associations and get some contract language resolved, she said.

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