FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Fort Wayne’s city government announced on Monday that there wouldn’t be any recycling collections this week.
Since then, multiple people have reached out to WANE 15 this week confused about when their recycling would be collected again.
On Thursday, WANE 15 reached out to city spokesman John Perlich and called all nine city council members to get answers.
As of the time of this report, only three council members had answered or returned voicemails. They are 2nd district councilman Russ Jehl, 3rd district councilman Tom Didier, and 5th district councilman Geoff Paddock.
Paddock said he knows the city is working hard and believes there will be some attempts to get recycling picked up in parts of the city leading up to July 1st when GFL Environmental begins its run as the city’s solid waste hauler.
Meanwhile, Didier and Jehl both say they don’t see any reason to believe Red River and the city-leased trucks that have been deployed can get to recycling at all over the next three weeks, but Perlich insists they intend to try.
“Our intent and hope is to get recycling collected prior to the July 1st start date for GFL,” Perlich said. “We want them to have a clean slate, and in order to do that we want to get as much out of the curbs and in the alleyways as much as possible.”
According to Perlich, the city will put out a release similar to the one from this past Monday on each of the next three Mondays to update the public on that week’s recycling plan.
“I don’t understand what they’re doing,” Didier said in a phone conversation with WANE 15.
He and Jehl both suggest that the city come out and say recycling is suspended until July 1st. They’re both said they’re telling the people they represent not to expect any recycling collections for the rest of this month.
Didier said he tells people to be patient because he is excited about what GFL is bringing to the table. At the same time, he and Jehl both pointed to press conferences they held earlier this year where they offered solutions to the ongoing collection issues.
At that time, they suggested the city reduce recycling pickups to just once a month.
Jehl sits on the Solid Waste Advisory Board. He said the city suspended recycling last week and didn’t bother to tell people until Monday. Now, he doesn’t think recycling can come back unless GFL starts early, and he hasn’t received any indications that could happen.
“The administration’s suggestion that very quickly, maybe as early as next week, recycling is going to start again and go back to being perfect is based off the assumption that GFL is going to start up early. I think that is a very big assumption and is really, needlessly setting up the ratepayer for another letdown,” Jehl said. “Just level with the public. The public knows that we’re going through a transition, knows that Red River is strapped, knows that it might be a bumpy ride. It doesn’t do any good ignoring that and then misleading the public and making them think that things are going to get picked up when they aren’t.”
Several weeks ago, Director of Public Works Shan Gunawardena told WANE 15 they’d love for GFL to start early, but the company didn’t want to hit the streets until it was 100% ready.
Today, Perlich said an early-start would be up to GFL and isn’t something for him to comment on.
While trash remains a day or two behind, and Perlich says you can expect it to stay that way, they’ll assess where they are on Monday and see if they have the ability to send out recycling trucks next week.
He said, on top of Red River’s serious staffing issues, several city workers from the streets and parks departments who were assisting with garbage collection in city-leased trucks have had to go back to their regular duties, which usually ramp up this time of the year.
So, the plan is to play it by ear.
Perlich said a lot of people have been understanding and patient regarding the situation, but that the city is also cognizant of the residents who are feeling fed up.
“We understand the frustration. We know that it’s out there. We understand that. We respect it,” Perlich said. “We know that residents have been through a lot since the start of the Red River contract, but for right now, as we stated earlier this week, we’re taking it day by day, week by week.”