At a recent meeting, Public Works Director Mike Svaby was questioned by council about continued complaints from constituents about trash and recycling issues throughout Milford. According to Councilman Todd Culotta, he has gotten multiple complaints about missed trash pickups.
“The trash pickup this week has been substandard. We have a bunch of cans still out on South Walnut Street for recycling that have not been picked up. Multiple residents have contacted me saying they’ve called customer service to find out why their trash or recycling wasn’t picked up. No call back. No acknowledgement, they just get a recording,” Councilman Culotta said. “Mark, you texted me last week saying we had some trouble with some trucks. So why do we continue to have this and then why do we not communicate with the tools that we have with the public that there are issues in the shop, and we are doing our best to get stuff cleaned up. It is very frustrating.”
Svaby explained that he understood the frustration, stating that, at one point the city was down two trucks. He apologized for not communicating this to the public, and promised they would do a better job in the future. Councilman Culotta asked how many trucks there were to which Svaby stated there were four, but two of them were down. Councilman Culotta aked why this kept happening and why there were not enough spare parts in stock to deal with breakdowns.
“A lot of the repair work that we that we do, we complete in house, we have spare parts for the stuff we do in house, the minor maintenance but the larger things that go wrong include things with the arm, hydraulic problems,” Svaby said. “They’re things that we typically don’t have the ability to repair that we send out for and as a norm, their return is within three or four days. Another thing that sort of goes into shuffling the deck for us every day, literally is we have three out of four positions filled. We have an advertisement out now and Jamesha’s just helping us try to fill that. So, we have some folks to look at on that front.”
Svaby then explained that there was a positive note and that the city was close to signing up for a subscription for route management software which would show them every location that is registered as a customer as well as if they were picked up.
“So, at a certain point, about two thirds of the way through the day, we will identify what, if anything, has been missed,” Svaby said. “And if something has been missed, whether or not it’s been missed because our team is not out or a legitimate reason why the customer wasn’t served. That is one thing, but missed pickup is not acceptable at any level. It was never our standard to do that. Our goal is to pick up every eligible customer’s containers on time that day they’re supposed to be, never carry over to the next day and we have high hopes for this route management software.”
Councilman Culotta explained that he hated to bring it up at a public meeting and give Svaby a hard time, but he gets many calls from constituents who are concerned which makes his job harder.
“It’s a difficult service, but it’s a much needed one. And, we’re in charge of housekeeping for the city. And that’s something we need to get on top of and we have high hopes for this route management software,” Svaby said. “We had a demo of it, and we’ve looked at several others the one we’re zeroing in on will help us identify before the day is over what’s been missed, so we’re gonna get on top of it that way.”
Councilman Jason James thanked Councilman Culotta for bringing the matter up at the meeting.
“I get lots of calls also. I know previously, I was informed that there was a tracking method in place, like a scan there on the container, sticker on them or something. So, we know what was picked up and know what happened to that,” Councilman James said “Is that defunct, not working anymore, or I hear you talking about new software but it was my understanding that that something existed in the past to be able to track what was picked up and what was forgotten.”
Svaby explained that they had abandoned the program Councilman James was talking about six months into his tenure as Public Works Director in 2020. He stated that there were upgrades to that system that had not been budgeted and that it was not state-of-the-art. The former software required matching video footage of a missed can with an address and the routing software to see if the cans were accidentally missed or there was another reason they were not picked up.
“What we’re about to do now will identify all the customers in the system. And as they’re picked up, the arm or the actual rear loader pickup will register as picked up. If they go by the location, it’ll hang on a GPS related application and it’ll show back at the office that say seven out of the eight stops on that street were not picked up,” Svaby said. “And we’ll be able to identify that anytime during the day. Our goal is to say pick a time, about 1:30 or 2:00, and look at those and say ‘hey, you know, you’ve got to go back, you missed these.’ We’ll be able to distinguish at that point whether those were legitimate non-pickups or misses. And our goal of course is to pick up the misses. The other software, a lot of it was actually a conglomeration of two different land applications where we had to match up video footage with the address and it was very difficult to understand.”
Councilman James questioned the fact that the previous system was abandoned six months into Svaby’s tenure and wondered why nothing had been put in place since that time. He asked if the new software would communicate with other systems used by the city.
“It has many layers to do that. We haven’t selected all of those yet. We’re starting out with the with the simplest option which is the actual GPS identify route and misses and pickups,” Svaby said. “There’s other things we can do like you know if we want to set a flag to do so, set it so that the customer gets an email we picked up your trash or another one that says we didn’t pick up your trash today because of one reason or another. There’s a lot of options available on it. But we’re starting with the stripped down model at first just to get our biggest problem conquered which is missed pickups.”
Councilman Andy Fulton asked Svaby if the drivers used route maps and Svaby explained they were given a manifest with route stops on them. Councilman Fulton asked if there was training provided before the operators went out on the road on how to use those route maps.
“They get a manifest that says today is Tuesday and this part of the city gets picked up either for trash or recycling, just in the form of a manifest. And the feedback I have gotten from the operators about using those is it’s difficult read while you’re driving,” Svaby said. “They need something that’s simple. The manifest creates a challenge. What they’ll do is going forward application with this new software is that now they’ll see their truck moving through the map. If they missed something, it’ll remain lit until they pick it up.”
At the end of the discussion, Councilman Brian Baer commended Svaby for the trash and recycling service in his ward, the third, stating that they seemed to have improved based on feedback from his constituents.
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