The Recorder – Montague Selectboard to Republic Services: “Take It In Your Hands”

Published: 08/24/2022 16:57:45

Modified: 08/24/2022 16:54:07

MONTAGUE — City officials again expressed their disappointment with waste collection company Republic Services at Monday’s Selectboard meeting, after months of missed waste pick-ups in the city.

The Selection Committee and City Administrator Steve Ellis have maintained constant communication with Republic Services since mid-June, when City Sales Manager Tyler Finnegan raised concerns during a a council meeting. At the time, Finnegan had verbally pledged to improve services after waste collectors missed pickups along many streets between June 10 and June 13. Since then, Republic Service representatives have made efforts to improve internal communication, serve the city with new trucks, and provide residents with an app that allows a user to report missed pickups.

“We are committed to bringing this back to the level of service you are used to,” Republic Services operations manager Amias Callender reiterated on Monday after concerns were again raised by the Selectboard.

After a brief hearing of public concerns and comments from selection committee members Matt Lord and Chris Boutwell, selection committee chair Rich Kuklewicz chose to be more assertive.

“I’m going to be the hammer here guys, listen,” Kuklewicz said. “We had a big debate as a board about whether we should renew the contract and we went in good faith that Republic had some issues when we renewed earlier in the year. I appreciate that there are issues. I understand. I work in an industrial plant, it’s a constant, but… we really need you to bring the situation under control.

According to Public Works Superintendent Tom Bergeron, the department still receives “more than 30 calls a day” from residents complaining that their garbage has not been properly picked up.

“It takes up a lot of our day picking up the phone and talking to residents, and we do that,” Bergeron said, adding that staff are constantly redirecting callers to Republic services.

“We get hundreds of calls over the course of a month and it impacts my productivity, everyone’s productivity in town hall, the productivity of DPW,” Ellis said. “It just can’t go on like this.”

Kuklewicz acknowledged that while Monday’s public comments were limited, there were more residents “who (were) quiet, polite, maybe nodding their heads.”

“They get angry, they post on social media, they threaten to take their trash cans to City Hall or to the Selectboard courts to tell us they don’t want to see this anymore, okay?” Kuklewicz said of Montague residents. “It just gets very, very, very frustrating.”

Finnegan highlighted the Republic Services app as a resource that should benefit residents, but Kuklewicz criticized its lack of accessibility, especially for the aging population.

“I didn’t even bother to try when I saw the instructions,” Kuklewicz said. “How is an old timer like me going to do when a tech-savvy young man throws up his arms and says, ‘I can’t understand this? “”

Callender also assured the city that service would improve when a new Mack garbage truck arrived. Finnegan added that “everything happens slowly”.

“We road tested this truck in a local municipality last week to make sure it could handle the collection, not like the last brand new truck you had that had to go back to Mack and is still waiting for parts at the Mack factory,” Callender noted.

Kuklewicz suggested the company employ a supervisor to monitor Montague’s truck driver as a potential solution. Ellis later endorsed this suggestion.

“They have to get it back,” Kuklewicz said of Republic Services personnel. “They literally have to pick it up.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or [email protected]