Waste Management Officials Scolded at Autauga County Commission Meeting
By Andrew Edwards
Elmore/Autauga News Staff Writer
Residents of Autauga County, outside the city limits of Prattville, are keenly aware of the ongoing issues revolving around Waste Management’s service. Problems such as missed routes, long customer service times and trash in the streets have plagued the county for some time, and have seemed to worsen since the company bought out Advanced Disposal in November 2020.
In April 2020, Waste Management representatives went before the Autauga County Commission and laid out their plan to help correct the issues listed above. They explained that, throughout the course of the summer, the company hoped to alleviate the county’s problems with a handful of solutions. These included hiring of new drivers, the implementation of new driver technology and the relocation of their call center.
However, things have taken a turn for the worse, officials and resident alike say. Two Waste Management officials, Rick Prather and Van Forrester, paid a visit to the Autauga County Commission on Tuesday afternoon and were met with contempt. The problems, which Waste Management officials hoped would be resolved over the past several months, have seemed to worsen of late.
“There’s more decline than there is improvement,” said District 2 Commissioner John Thrailkill. “It’s not gotten better. There might be a stretch where trash is picked up consistently, but then it falls back off. There are people in this county who are irate. The trash pickups are not just a day or two late, most of the time it’s weeks late. Is there worse service in the state than Autauga County? I mean, that’s a question for y’all [speaking to Waste Management officials].”
Thraillkill went on to explain that the county has no one else to turn to in the wake of Waste Management’s buyout of Advanced Disposal.“[Speaking to officials] The company that you all work for wanted Advanced Disposal. Well in doing that, you’ve eliminated all your competition. Who else do we have to chose from? Who else do we call? We’ve been left without any other options. As far as I’m concerned, y’all are holding us hostage with our garbage,” Thraillkill said.
Prather explained that the current problems are stemming from covid-related issues, which have led to a shortage of drivers and truck materials.“The situation that we are in has absolutely nothing to do with the acquisition of Advanced Disposal. Any restaurant that you go to, if you’re not seeing those staffing challenges, you’re not watching the news. We had two drivers call in today with covid related symptoms that had to go be tested and wait two to three days. During that period, they cannot come to work,” Prather said.
Forrester went on to further explain Waste Management’s own issues. “It takes drivers to make all this happen, and when they’re not there or available, there’s no one else to drive. We have trucks going to Kentucky because there’s not anyone here local who can handle the kinds of repairs that we need. These are real world things that we are facing. When we came here earlier this year and said this is what we’re doing, there’s not a person in this room that could have seen what would happen now,” Forrester said.
District 3 Commissioner Bill Tatum, who has been very vocal about the lack of service in his district, did not mince words with officials on Tuesday afternoon.“[Speaking to officials] I receive 40 calls in one day. We’re the ones getting beat up every day because y’all don’t do y’all’s job. I just don’t feel like your drivers are trained well enough,” Tatum said.
Forrester said that many of their drivers are put out in the field too early. He explained that they are trained for six weeks, which is not an appropriate amount of time. “We’re rushing our training, due to our lack of staffing,” Forrester said.
Chairman and District 4 Commissioner Jay Thompson chimed in as the conversation came to a close. “When people call and are on hold for an hour and 45 minutes, to me, that’s unacceptable. You’re not a mom-and-pop business, you’re a multi-billion-dollar cooperation. Customer service goes a long way,” Thompson said.
Answers came few and far between, however, but Prather explained that several new employees are slated to be hired in the near future.“We’ll have seven new CSRs, full trained, as of Monday, Sept. 13. We’ll have 25 more, that handle this specific area, by the beginning of October,” Prather said.