Town must hold hauler accountable on service

info@islandpacket.comAugust 5, 2013 

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Hilton Head Island is in its second full year of a franchise agreement with Republic Waste Services, and its second summer of a rash of complaints about missed trash.

This can't be that hard to figure out -- for Republic or the town. Summer is the island's busiest time. There is going to be more trash and recycling to pick up.

The town has received more than 200 complaints since mid-June, says Scott Liggett, the town's public projects director. The waste hauler began falling behind on collections in June despite meeting with town staff last winter to prepare for rising demand during the summer tourist season.

Last year, town officials said they received nearly 130 complaints about Republic in July and more than 90 in August. The town notified Republic then that it was in breach of its franchise agreement. Company officials met with the town and by September, we were told complaints had dropped off. In January, we were told all was well and to expect better service this summer.

Hilton Head officials ought to be reviewing Republic's five-year contract to determine whether the town should get out of it or find a bigger hammer to use to get the company to perform as promised. If Republic can't handle the job, then find another company. If there are still problems after that, go back to the drawing board and rethink how best to provide this vital service in a community that has a lot of comings and goings and properties sitting empty for some weeks and months.

We supported the idea of a single hauler that also provided recycling when it was approved in late 2010. Town officials had reported that participation in voluntary recycling had been poor. Contracting with one hauler, they said, would lower costs for most residents, improve efficiency and air quality, reduce wear on roads, and increase recycling rates.

And indeed, recycling rates were up fivefold at last report, a significant accomplishment.

But there's no excuse for inadequate staffing, missed scheduled pick-ups and dumping recycling into the regular trash, as some people have reported.

The fact that the company has fallen short two years in a row during Hilton Head's high season should be a deal-breaker. As one of our online commenters noted, visitors showing up at a rental unit to find smelly trash from the previous week's tenants is not conducive to repeat business. And it's not sanitary.

Part of the Republic contract is trash pick-up from service yards. Trash is not hauled to the curb in many areas of Hilton Head. But if intermittently occupied units are being missed, that might be a way to ensure trash is picked up. It's worth discussing.

As for rental units getting cleaned out after trash is picked up on Saturdays, something has to change. We know most rental units have an 11 a.m. check-out time and a 4 p.m. check-in time. Come up with a plan that accounts for that.

Hilton Head officials and Republic must figure out a way to make this contract work, or the town needs to find a new trash hauler up to the task.

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