Waste Management officials pledge to improve service

Officials with Waste Management Inc. assured Pine Bluff City Council Public Health and Welfare Committee Chairman and Lloyd Holcomb Jr. Thursday that recent lapses in quality control pertaining to residential trash pick-up are being remedied.

The WM personnel were invited by Holcomb, who represents the First Ward on the city council, to participate in the committee’s monthly meeting .

“First I want to thank you all for the service that you provide to the citizens of Pine Bluff,” Holcomb said. “But we have had questions from residents concerning the level of service that they are receiving. The city council passed a resolution last week to raise rates on garbage collection. The people I am speaking to say that an increase in the fees that they pay should be met by an increase in the level of service that they are receiving.”

Wayne Rathbun, director of business development in Arkansas for WM, responded to Holcomb’s statements.

“We think that the return of the call center to Pine Bluff as of Oct. 1 has helped and as I understand it the calls to the mayor’s office pertaining to trash pickup issues have dropped considerably,” Rathbun said. “We had transitioned to a centralized call center located out of the area but in the process we lost that hometown feel as well as the local knowledge that comes from having local call center personnel. Mayor [Debe] Hollingsworth was a major factor in getting the call center brought back to Pine Bluff.”

Holcomb said his trash can has at times been left in the street after the weekly WM trash collection.

“Sometimes some of the trash comes out of the can and is left behind in the street,” Holcomb said.

WM local route manager Sheldon Pratt and district operations manager Brian Temple both said that they would begin following trash routes in town to see what the drivers are doing correctly and what needs to be improved upon.

Holcomb brought up another problem that he has encountered.

“I called the number that WM provides for the pick-up of larger items and scheduled a pick-up,” Holcomb said. “I ended up waiting a month and a half for it to be picked up.”

Rathbun said the return of the call center to Pine Bluff should eliminate such lengthy delays in service.

“We are hoping that having calls taken locally will help us to both schedule quicker and respond to requests quicker,” Rathbun said.

“We also have a problem with illegal dumping in the city,” Holcomb said.

Pratt said Waste Management is taking steps to alleviate this problem.

“We have been working closely with several of the Neighborhood Watch organizations,” Pratt said. “We have set up several of our large receptacles in these areas for people to drop their trash. But we have had the problem of building contractors finding these sites and filling up our containers.”

Rathbun said WM will work to make sure that the people of Pine Bluff are receiving the highest level of service.

“We’re proud to be here and want to continue to be a part of the community,” Rathbun said. “Our drivers are from right here in the community so we want to provide the best service that we can.”

The other two members of the Public Health and Welfare Committee — First Ward Alderwoman Thelma Walker and Third Ward Alderman Glen Brown were not present for the meeting.