City: 32% of garbage drivers are out sick

UPDATE (January 12, 2022):

The City of Fort Wayne continues to experience delays with the collection of garbage and recycling materials. The City says that in addition to other issues, Red River Waste is experiencing absences due to COVID. Those helping from the City are also calling out because of illness.

On Tuesday, after years of issues with Red River Waste, a resolution was introduced before City Council asking for a change to the state law that requires taking the lowest bid on waste services (full story below).

On Tuesday as well, the City released the following regarding the state of trash and recycling pick-ups in Fort Wayne:

There have been a number of positive COVID-19 cases with Red River drivers and City of Fort Wayne Street Department employees who assist with after-hours collections. This is resulting in slower collections and residents not getting materials collected on their scheduled day. Residents should continue to set out materials on the normal collection day. We’re working diligently to get as many materials collected as soon as possible. Currently, collections are a day and a half to two days behind. We anticipate those delays could last for the next few weeks. We continue to ask for patience from the public.

Mayor Tom Henry and the City of Fort Wayne Solid Waste Department understand and share the frustrations that residents and neighborhoods have over the collection process. Plans are being worked on to try to get the current challenges corrected in light of the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings involving Red River and the ongoing labor shortage. Efforts are also being made to get Indiana law changed that would enable the City to not have to take the lowest bid on future garbage and recycling contracts.

Data points:
-32% of Red River drivers are out sick

-Public Works and City Utilities staffing levels are down 20% due to illnesses, so we are having trouble supplementing with City staff to help on routes

-Other waste haulers are experiencing similar challenges with labor shortage and illnesses

-The City continues to help supplement Red River by having City staff make collections. We currently have two Solid Waste Department trucks running daily. One to two Street Department crews are running routes each night depending on worker availability. One to two Parks Department crews are running their garbage truck on select evenings depending on staff availability.

ORIGINAL STORY (January 10, 2022):

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (ADAMS) – Mayor Tom Henry’s administration and City Council say that they are working together to ask the Indiana General Assembly to consider changes to the solid waste bidding process.

A resolution is scheduled to be introduced at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 11. The resolution requests that the Indiana General Assembly change state law to allow municipalities to use a request for proposals process for solid waste and recycling services.

Currently, Indiana Code 36-9-30 sets forth the requirements for local governments to contract with private companies for the collection or disposal of solid waste and requires such contracts to be awarded to the lowest responsible and responsive bidder.

The following was issued by the mayor’s office:

The City believes it could better serve its residents if it could use the requests for proposal (RFP) bid process in its procurement of solid waste and recycling collection and disposal services instead of a lowest bid process.

The resolution formally requests that the state legislators who represent Fort Wayne residents to introduce and support legislation to authorize local governments to enter into contracts for solid waste and recycling collection services through an RFP process.

Fort Wayne’s current garbage and recycling contracts would not be impacted.