Dallas is considering compensating residents for missed trash and recyclable pickups they say were the result of a December sanitation schedule change.
With complaints skyrocketing and some residents seeing rubbish piled up for three weeks without pickup, some city officials say it’s the right thing to figure out how to reimburse residents.
Jay Council, director of the Dallas Sanitary Service, said Tuesday that city attorneys and other officials are looking into the potential impact on the department. He said that at the moment this option is only being discussed, and the criteria for who will be eligible for a refund or discount are still being determined.
“We are a cost recovery fund and the fees we charge are to cover the cost of services,” Council said of the sanitation department. “But I think everyone agrees that if there is a need for reimbursement, we are ready to definitely look into it.”
Residents who had their pickup completely missed for at least a week are more likely to be involved, he said, rather than customers whose pickups were delayed.
The city provides garbage collection, recycling, and bulky waste services to approximately 245,000 homes in Dallas. Dallas has a monthly sanitation fee of $35.81 since October.
The reimbursement consideration comes after city councilman Chad West suggested it during a meeting last week in which sanitation officials addressed fee delays following a change to the citywide schedule on Dec. 5. The council stated during the meeting that the department would be open to this.
West said on Tuesday that the compensation could most likely be a loan against a future account.
“Most of the board members I spoke to said, ‘Yeah, why don’t we do that?'” West said.
Last month, the city changed its garbage collection schedule from four days a week to five days, requiring 56% of customers to take out their trash the next day. The council said the goal was to make the citywide schedule more sustainable for the department and reduce crew workdays.
But missed routes, freezing weather leading up to Christmas, a shortage of temporary workers and a full fleet of working trucks meant several homes didn’t pick up trash or recycling in December. Council said Dallas Morning News that in some cases it took the department weeks to figure out that there were streets they missed because drivers were used to the new routes.
The Council has calculated that it could be the end of January before most customers have their trash removed on time.
In November, residents filed 2,899 complaints about skipped trash and recycling, according to City 311 data. In December, this figure was 12,223 people.
Council members during a January 12 meeting said residents’ complaints about missed pickups persist into the new year. Councilwoman Gay Donnell Willis, who represents neighborhoods in northwest Dallas, said her office received 400 calls from residents in three weeks about missed fees.
Complaints from residents prompted West, who represents North Oak Cliff, to hire a private company to collect expired trash from residents in his area. West emailed residents a survey on Saturday night to sign up for garbage pickup on Monday or Tuesday.
He said 17 households picked up their Wee Hawll Junk Removal Services trash from Oak Cliff for $2,500. West said he plans to use excess campaign donations to cover the bill.
The garbage collection fee was meant to be a temporary measure to provide emergency relief to residents who needed it most, he said, and was not scheduled to be extended past Tuesday.
“The city ultimately has to get it right,” West said. “The long-term solution here is to have sanitation run on a regular schedule, and I’m sure they will achieve that.”
Luberta Watkins, owner of Wee Hawll, said her crew of four moved at least two trailers full of trash around Jefferson Boulevard, Davis Street and Westmoreland Road on Monday.
One resident had about a dozen bags of trash waiting in the back of his pickup truck when they arrived. She said she lived close to the Dallas Zoo and didn’t personally experience delays in garbage collection, but it was hard not to notice.
“People were very grateful,” Watkins said. “Most of them said it had been two or three weeks since they took out the trash.”
According to her, West called her over the weekend after finding the company through Google. The company typically handles debris removal from construction sites, garages and minor demolition. She said she hopes the extra business will help pay for the replacement of the truck, which was stolen at least six months ago.
“Everyone needs help here and there and we’re just glad we can do our part,” she said.