Saying that moves to make the company compliant with Department of Transportation regulations had prompted the exodus of more than 50 percent of its drivers, representatives of WCA/Town & Country told the Leawood City Council on Tuesday they were working to address staffing issues that have led to persistent service problems in the city.
WCA District Manager Bob Mathis told the council that after the company purchased Town & County last year, it discovered that many local staff members had not been subject to testing required by government regulations.
“When the merger took place…we realized that Town & Country had not performed DOT random drug screening and other mandatory items that must be done every year,” Mathis said. “As we rolled out mandatory drug screening, we had a high percent saying, ‘I won’t take that’…So we lost 53 percent of our drivers within the first two months.”
Consequently, the company has been struggling to staff its routes, resulting in frequent delayed and missed pick ups. Members of the council relayed stories from their neighborhoods, where homeowners have had trash, recycling and yardwaste sitting by the curb for days past the scheduled pick up date. City staff suggested that trash left on the curb in the hot months posed a health hazard.
Conceding that the problems were “unacceptable,” Mathis said the company has been successful in recruiting and training new drivers in recent months, and anticipates being able to add to its workforce in the coming weeks.
But the issues the homeowners associations served by the company in Leawood have experienced in recent months have attracted the attention of the city’s administration. After Mathis and fellow WCA/Town & Country manager Tom Coffman explained the reasons behind the issues and the steps they were taking to address them, Leawood City Administrator Scott Lambers said he was concerned about the company’s ability to rectify the situation, particularly with the upcoming fall season when many neighborhoods in Leawood produce massive amounts of yardwaste each week as mature trees shed their leaves.
“You’re heading into a heavy season, and if you can’t keep up with what you’ve got now, I’m very cynical that you’re going to be able to make it,” Lambers said. “It’s only going to get worse.”
Lambers told Mathis that he was taking action to reduce the duration of the company’s active waste hauling permit with the city, as he had done with Deffenbaugh/Waste Management in response to similar problems earlier this year.
“I believe that your company needs to be put on notice as well, so I will be suspending the one-year permit and reinstating a six-month permit,” Lambers told Mathis. “Hopefully you’ll get your corporate headquarters attention with what’s going on now.”