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Trash collection becoming an issue again in Cape Coral

By Staff | Mar 26, 2021

The Cape Coral City Council is getting a little worn out of having to deal with trash collection problems with their collection provider, and may now be ready to impose fines or take other action.

Council expressed its dissatisfaction Friday with continued problems regarding the collection of garbage, recycling and bulk trash.

Given the number of complaints, Councilmember Dan Sheppard said the city should use the power of the purse to solve the problem by fining Waste Pro, the city’s trash collection provider and, if need be, perhaps look for another provider if the issues are not quickly solved.

Mayor John Gunter said most of the e-mails and comments he gets from residents is regarding garbage collection, and they have gotten more frequent in recent weeks.

“This isn’t our problem, but Waste Pro’s. They have a contractual responsibility to handle this but there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency,” Gunter said. “I don’t want just promises, I want results and I want them to fulfill their obligations.”

This were similar issues three years ago, however, they seemed to become a thing of the past once Waste Pro adjusted the number of trucks on the road.

The city then renewed a long-term contract.

Jennifer Nelson, who took the issue on early in her term as council member, said the problem is different now.

WastePro has said it is having problems getting people in the trucks, she said. While more trucks are expected to hit the road soon, it doesn’t help if there are no drivers.

Councilmember Dan Sheppard said if the city goes after the wallet, it would go a long way to solve the problem.

“If they can’t honor their contract, there should be a penalty. If there is a problem in my business, I drop everything to address it,” Sheppard said. “If it costs them money, they’ll take action.”

Waste Pro was notified by City Manager Rob Hernandez of the issues in a letter on Feb. 26. With a 30-day notice set to expire on March 28, the Council said the city should start fining them immediately. Fines could range from $100 and $1,500 per incident.

He also set up a meeting with corporate officials for April 7, the first available date.

Waste Pro provided a statement via email on Saturday.

“Waste Pro management is working closely with the City,” the statement reads. “The demand for qualified drivers currently out paces the supply due to the nationwide driver shortage. Locally, we are actively working to train new drivers and helpers and have implemented increased recruiting efforts including a recent job fair at our Lee County based facility.”

The city council also had a follow-up discussion on establishing a bulk trash collection location somewhere in the city, with Council consensus being to have city staff look into starting a pilot program to establish a location for people to come to drop off their bulk trash. The city could then and estimate the amount of bulk trash it would collect, based on the test year.

Gunter said the city should be able to provide residents a place to bring their bulk trash.

“It should only be used by Cape Coral residents, it would help us address the bulk trash problem and give residents another amenity,” Gunter said, adding it would be closer than bringing it to Buckingham, which is a 30-plus minute drive.

Councilmember Gloria Tate was a little hesitant to support the pilot effort, saying that while it’s great to have an alternative, she thought that bulk collection, curbside, was already offered.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from Waste Pro.