HEIGHTS — The city is working to address issues with its waste and recycling collection service following complaints from residents on delayed pickups.
A study session discussion is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 7 for Priority Waste to speak to residents and City Council members. Councilman Ray Muscat began the May 24 meeting asking to pull the item where Priority Waste would be paid its $213,465 off the agenda until it was caught up with collection.
“They’re not doing the job and I feel like companies come in here, under bid a job so they can get a contract and now they’re not fulfilling their end of the agreement,” he said. “I got phone calls and photos today of yard waste all over the street, bags broken, and this is not a dumping ground. We’re paying good money — they were the ones that agreed to the contract, they need to hold up their end of the bargain.”
When it came time to vote for fund transfers and current claims — which is the item the payment was under — the council approved with a 6-1 vote. Muscat opposed due to the Priority Waste payment.
He said the city is paying for a service its not getting, and that at first, he tried to go with the flow and he was happy that the city got rid of the previous hauler — GFL Environmental — but that right now GFL “looks like a five-star company” compared to Priority Waste.
“There’s no one here that would have a business that would pay somebody for doing nothing or not doing their job properly,” he said. “They’re not new anymore, they’ve been here long enough to know the routes, they know what they’re supposed to be doing, and even if they didn’t know the routes, to leave bags that are broken in the street full of yard waste is uncalled for.”
Council Chair Dave Abdallah said he and Mayor Bill Bazzi have been in continuous contact with Priority Waste.
“In all my years on council — almost eight years now consistently — almost every garbage company we’ve had, there have been complaints from residents, and I’m not saying they’re not justified because they are, but it seems to be, unfortunately, kind of an industry thing,” Abdallah said.
Priority Waste recently put Municipal Relations Manager Paul Ruthenberg in charge of Dearborn Heights and its 23,000 properties. He is scheduled to speak at the study session.
When Councilman Mo Baydoun addressed the topic, he received applause from the audience.
“We’ve got 23,000 homes,” he said. “You’re not going to have it perfect, but I’m going to be straight blunt with you. They suck. They’re terrible, they’re not doing a good job and it’s not that it’s one resident calling me, it’s the same street and it’s the same neighborhood.”
Corporation Counsel Gary Miotke said in his perspective the city needs to be careful about trying to do things in terms of remedies that go beyond the contract.
“Clearly, there have been problems, including in my neighborhood, with respect to collection,” he said. “Obviously these things should end up being verified and quantified, and my recommendation would be that we would send correspondents, specifically myself, to them speaking about this and saying exactly what they’re going to do and how much we’re going to end up taking off of their bill.”
Miotke asked the council if they want to direct him to send a letter to Priority Waste the following day, saying they need to do something and expect penalties to be imposed due to the level of service and dissatisfaction of the council.
Every council member was in support of sending the letter except Muscat, who said getting the company’s attention should be done by not paying them.
Bazzi said he’s been talking to the Priority Waste owner almost every other week to get a status of what’s going on.
Bazzi said residents are putting out excessive amounts of both yard waste and bulk waste, which had been limited in the past with GFL. Priority Waste’s trucks fill up faster as a result, and pickups are delayed, and the trucks must make more trips to the landfill.
Bazzi wants to limit both the amount of yard waste and bulk waste that residents may put out for pickup.
Bazzi told the council there are discussions to add limits of two large items and 10 bags.
“Also, they’re bringing in new technology — new cameras in every truck and they’re bringing tablets — so that’s the reason why they want the residents to call them direct,” he said. “They can send them a text through the tablet and that’s how they dispatch, and they’re keeping track for customer service.”
Priority Waste took over the city’s waste collection and disposal and recycling collection in March after the the City Council approved a five-year contact Dec. 14. The contract will run through March 19, 2027.
The city began the process of looking for a new waste management company following complaints from residents due to delayed or missed waste and recycle collection by GFL.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])