By Jerry LaMartina
Leawood City Council members had hoped to hear from a representative of the city’s waste hauler, WCA/Town & Country Disposal, at its Monday night meeting to address a series of recent late and missed yard-waste pickups.
WCA/Town & Country spokesman Tom Coffman said that the employee who had intended to attend the council meeting was attending a home owners’ association meeting in Leawood. Coffman and Regional Vice President Kevin O’Brien plan to attend the Sept. 6 council meeting.
“We were having trouble with service earlier in the summer, but we seem to have turned the corner with it,” Coffman said. “We’re trying to rebuild after the acquisition of Town & Country by WCA in October. We’ve been hiring more commercial drivers.”
Many industries across the country have been facing shortages of qualified drivers, Coffman said. WCA has increased its compensation package for drivers by about 30 percent and has been adding drivers throughout its service areas and assigning them as needed to problem areas.
“In all communities in this market, it’s largely yard waste pickup we’ve been having a problem with,” he said. “Even though it starts to stink, it’s not as much of a health hazard as trash.”
Ward 1 Councilman Andrew Osman asked City Administrator Scott Lambers whether the county or individual waste-hauling companies set the limit on how many yard waste bags per household will be collected each week – whether it’s “five or 10 bags or 15 – whatever the policy is.” Lambers said he was seeking an answer to that question from the county manager.
Ward 1 Councilwoman Debra Filla said some haulers don’t enforce the rules on how many yard waste bags they’ll pick up each week from each household.
“My constituents and Debra’s in Ward 1 have mature, large trees,” Osman said. “It’s not uncommon during October and November, December that we would have (50 to 100) bags of yard waste at a time, and there’s a severe health issue when they only pick up 10 at a time and you have to pull back all those bags. Sometimes they get wet sitting outside for a week. We have older residents in our area that don’t have the opportunity to pull those bags back. That’s something I would’ve liked to address tonight … with WCA.”
Filla said that WCA had picked up yard waste, trash and recyclables on time Monday in some parts of the city. Ward 2 Councilman Jim Rawlings said that WCA also had picked up all three types of waste on time last Tuesday in some parts of Leawood, and that he’d seen a WCA supervisor truck driving around the city.
Leawood’s not alone in its waste woes with WCA. Fairway residents also have been experiencing delayed and missed pickups by the company in the past few months. In May, the city sent residents a notice saying the company was “addressing operational and staffing challenges” and was “very focused on hiring and currently have several new drivers that are in the process of training.”
The city also referred residents to a letter from O’Brien in which he said the company had been having trouble finding qualified drivers to hire, had designated a driver recruiter and had brought in drivers from some of its other locations to help with its Fairway operations through June 1.