Cold Weather Hits the Lowcountry

A Waste Pro employee prepares to dump cardboard into the truck for recycling. Summerville is considering ending its contract with the hauler. File

The town of Summerville could soon be searching for a new company to collect residents’ trash and recycling.

Despite being warned last month that customers were not happy with their service, Waste Pro continues to have problems, Mayor Wiley Johnson said Thursday.

“The list of complaints goes on and on and on,” said Freddie Lewis, president of the Weatherstone Homeowners Association.

Town Council found Waste Pro in breach of their contract and voted to discuss with the company ending the three-year contract that just started in January.

“This doesn’t necessarily have to be the end,” Johnson said after the meeting. “They could turn things around and everything becomes sterling.”

A spokesman for the collector said the company is trying to improve. In early February, the company outlined an eight-point “Operational Enhancement Plan” to improve service after the town sent it a warning letter.

“I know sometimes it just sounds like the same old song and dance but the commitment is here,” said Robert Allen, adding that the company has hired Hal Burch, who says he has a background “in transforming waste companies,” to run the company in Summerville.

“One of the areas that we felt was paramount was to have someone to live, work and play here,” Allen said. “We’ve never had someone of this caliber in the spot that you can lay hands on him if you need to.”

Since the contract started in January, residents have complained that the hauler:

• Failed to provide service on the scheduled day.

• Did not deliver roll carts to residents but claimed it did.

• Did not properly replace bins after emptying them.

• Emptied recycle carts into garbage trucks.

Town officials said they fielded thousands of phone calls from unhappy customers who have reported seeing trucks run over mailboxes, workers leave trash on the ground and trucks leak nasty water and hydraulic fluid. The company did not respond to their calls and emails, residents said.

“I’ve seen the hydraulic lines burst right in front of the neighbor’s house and go all up in his driveway and they come and put sand on it, but it does nothing for the stain,” Lewis said.

Waste Pro was awarded the contract last summer after providing the lowest of three bids for trash collection, $8.40 per household per month. It also provided the only viable bid for single-stream recycling, which was $9.85 per household per month.

There are about 15,000 customers in the town.

Summerville's recycling program ended in November 2015 because Charleston County closed its recycling plant, leaving the town with nowhere to send plastic, glass and tin.

Some Town Council members were hesitant to enter into the contract because of prior issues with the company. In 2014, the town also sent the company a “notice to cure” letter after complaints that residents went weeks without garbage pick-up. That eventually led to improved service, town officials said.

Now, Waste Pro is evaluating routes for efficiency and communicates delays or other problems to town officials three times a day.

Allen asked the town to give the company more time to improve.

“All the pieces are in place,” Allen said. “We want this to be a success.”

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Get the best of The Post and Courier, handpicked and delivered to your inbox every morning.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713. Follow her on Twitter @brindge.