Hilton Head Island Town Council members say they have faith service from the town's contracted waste hauler will improve as it braces for more customers.
Art Smith, municipal marketing manager for Republic Waste Services of Hilton Head, offered assurances but few specifics Tuesday as to how the company intends to meet required performance standards. Republic was asked to address council after residents continued to complain of missed trash and recycling collections, despite a town warning to clean up its act.
Smith said missed collections have since fallen by half and reiterated the company has hired additional drivers and brought in more trucks. He also said the company has changed management and staff training and pickup schedules. Republic serves about 10,600 residential customers on Hilton Head, with another 2,500 or so expected to sign up by Oct. 1.
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.
Both Smith and public projects and facilities director Scott Liggett told council service will continue to improve as Republic's customer base "stabilizes" after Oct. 1.
Mayor Drew Laughlin, who was frustrated by lack of details from Republic, seemed satisfied with Smith's response after the meeting, calling the complaints "bumps in the road" that were to be expected.
"The number of complaints are going down, and I think they are working at it and conditions have improved," Laughlin said. "They are ramping up, and the key to improving service will be consistency. We have a community that expects a high level of service, and I think (Republic) will meet them."
He stood by the franchise agreement, saying it has achieved its principal goals of lowering costs for most residents, reducing the number of trucks on the roads and increasing recycling rates.
Republic has a more than a 99 percent successful collection rate among 3,500 daily pick-ups since the franchise agreement began, Liggett said.
The town has seen a nearly five-fold increase in recycled material collected, he said -- from an average 31 tons of recycled material a month before the agreement to 143 tons a month now, without a large reduction in what is being collected at Beaufort County's convenience center.
Council woman Kim Likins, however, said the town shouldn't be ready to declare the program a victory just yet.
"From the information I'm receiving from my constituents, people are disappointed and frustrated with service," Likins said.
Liggett said town staff intends to independently check for missed pick-ups and follow up to ensure there is timely response from Republic.