Hilton Head Island residents continue to complain the town's garbage hauler is not picking up trash and recyclables as scheduled, despite town officials' warning to the contractor to clean up its act.
Town manager Steve Riley sent Republic Waste Services of Hilton Head a letter dated July 30 stating the company was in breach of its franchise agreement. He gave the company five days to meet performance requirements or risk losing the town's business.
Company general manager Tim Laux contends Republic has met its obligations and says the town has no grounds to end the agreement.
"Republic has (quickly) and appropriately resolved all complaints and service concerns," Laux wrote the town Aug. 3 in response to Riley's letter.
Town officials say they received 94 complaints last month, compared to about 130 complaints in July, according to public projects and facilities director Scott Liggett.
Some residents have complained Republic refuses to offer twice-a-week pickup as required under its agreement with the town. The company denies that.
"We are encouraging people to go to once-a-week garbage and recycling pickup, but are still offering twice-a-week collection as required," said Art Smith, municipal marketing manager for Republic Services.
Town Council granted a five-year franchise to Republic Services to provide residential waste and recycling collection beginning April 2011.
Households still under previous contracts for waste or recycling collection have until Sept. 30 to sign up for the program, or they can haul garbage and recyclables to a county-operated dump instead.
Smith said two large island property-management firms simultaneously signed up for service June 1, generating 1,500 new customers overnight. That caught the company off-guard and prompted a scramble to hire more drivers and supervisors, he said.
Riley and council want assurances that complaints won't pick up again as the Sept. 30 deadline nears.
The hauler serves about 10,000 residential customers on Hilton Head, with another 2,500 or so expected to sign up by Oct. 1.
"Be assured that Republic can and is willing to perform its obligations under the agreement and has appropriate measures in place to respond to customer complaints," Laux wrote.
Riley said town staff members have met with the company weekly during the past month and have been told the hauler has hired additional drivers, will bring in more trucks, and has changed management, staff training and pickup schedules.
However, Mayor Drew Laughlin and other council members say they are not satisfied and want a more detailed response from the hauler.
"You can't insist citizens use a company that is not performing, and efforts to get specifics from them to address service concerns have been frustrating," Laughlin said. "The problem is, they haven't been providing the service promised. I don't think it's because Republic can't do it. I think it's a performance issue. They can get the resources to bear. I think they just haven't done it."
Smith said the company will explain at the Sept. 18 council meeting how it plans to handle the upcoming increase in customers.
"We look forward to working with the town," he said. "Once the base number of customers are settled down, that will eliminate unpredictability, and we can move forward to work toward the objective set in the franchise agreement."