JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After Tropical Storm Elsa blew through Northeast Florida, some Clay and Duval county residents were left with messy yards.
The routine storm cleanup effort came and went in the days immediately following the storm, and now community members say their yard waste is still sitting on the curb.
To understand the extent of the problem, News4Jax asked Insiders if they’ve had trouble with waste in their neighborhoods. The answer, at least according to those who responded, was a resounding yes.
“Yard waste not being collected is an ongoing issue in my area of Mandarin, Arrowhead,” an Insider told News4Jax. “Waste not collected as scheduled or not at all. Called 630-CITY, no change. Frustrating as there’s no remedy or consequence for non-performance.”
That user wasn’t alone. People throughout the city, and the area as a whole, shared similar stories about uncollected waste that dates back to before the storm even reached Northeast Florida, with some saying they’ve seen it pile up for weeks before it’s finally picked up.
In response to an inquiry from News4Jax, the city released a statement saying it’s aware of ongoing issues, which it attributed to staffing problems, among other woes. The city said waste hauling vendors have said they’re having trouble hiring and retaining employees.
“The companies we contract with have expressed difficulty with being properly staffed, and tell us that is leading to delayed pickups,” the statement said in part. “In addition, we are now seeing a large increase in residential waste, which is causing trucks to fill up faster.”
A News4Jax Insider, who lives in the Sandalwood neighborhood and preferred to remain anonymous, said pickup hasn’t been timely, but they appreciate the customer service they’ve received when they contact the city about the issues.
“Yard waste pickup seems to be monthly and requires several city requests,” that Insider said. “The city contacts are always professional, but someone really should update the city service website to reflect reality.”
The city has asked residents who experience delays to report issues through its website (myjax.custhelp.com) or by calling 904-630-CITY (2489), saying it relies on these reports to identify and follow up on missed pickups so the contractors involved can be held responsible. Residents can also report issues through the MyJax app.
But even though many responses came from Duval County residents, News4Jax also received complaints from individuals who live in nearby Clay County. Several of them told News4Jax they’ve seen waste sit on the curb, uncollected for four weeks or more.
“Over 10 bags of yard waste,” a resident of Cross Creek Drive in Green Cove Springs said. “They haven’t picked up in a month. I’ve called four times (on hold for 30 minutes) and every time, I’m read a script to ‘leave it out and they’ll be by.’ Well, that has yet to happen.”
Another Clay County resident waste has “been sitting out for at least five weeks. They keep telling us they’re working on it. It smells awful.”
Residents in Clay have seen yard waste pile up periodically in months past. As News4Jax reported in April, residents complained about trash and other refuse being backed up for weeks on end.
Waste Management made a presentation to Clay County commissioner last week in which the company told officials they started having a shortage of drivers in January and fell behind in yard waste collection by three weeks in early April. Though they recovered, the problems have gotten worse with labor shortages.
The company told the board it has moved from two temporary labor providers to four, but they’re still short by seven to 12 workers.
News4Jax reached out to the county government on Thursday in response to the latest wave of complaints. There was no response as of Thursday evening.
In the meantime, residents have been asked to call Clay County Environmental Services if they have these concerns: 904-284-6374.
Below you’ll find the complete unedited statement from the city of Jacksonville:
As is the case with a multitude of industries across the country, private solid waste companies are struggling to find and keep employees. The companies we contract with have expressed difficulty with being properly staffed, and tell us that is leading to delayed pickups. In addition, we are now seeing a large increase in residential waste which is causing trucks to fill up faster. Despite these issues, in the month of June only .24% of customers experienced delayed service. Regardless, we understand this is frustrating for customers and we are working on multiple solutions. In the meantime, many City employees in our Solid Waste division are working seven days a week to fill the gaps. We have also asked City employees with CDL licenses to work overtime shifts and help alleviate the issues. We greatly appreciate the patience of our citizens during this time. Citizens are encouraged to report problems with missed collections. To report a problem, please use the MyJax app or Myjax.custhelp.com. Citizens can also call 904-630-CITY (2489) but may experience wait times. This is how we track missed pickups and know when to enforce fines against contractors.City of Jacksonville