ANNA MARIA – Mayor Dan Murphy is among those displeased with the lack of trash collection provided by Waste Management during the extended Fourth of July weekend and Hurricane Elsa.
Anna Maria is the only city on Anna Maria Island serviced by Waste Management. Waste Pro services Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach. According to Bradenton Beach Public Works Manager Tom Woodard, Waste Pro serviced that city on Tuesday and Wednesday.
During the Thursday, July 8 city commission meeting, Murphy gave a positive report regarding the city’s response to the storm, with one exception: “The biggest faux pas we had was garbage collection. Holmes Beach had their garbage collected and somehow Waste Management decided to not pick up our garbage because the landfill was closed.”
Murphy was referring to the Manatee County landfill being closed on Tuesday after being closed on Monday in recognition of the Fourth of July holiday.
At 11:46 a.m. on Monday, July 6, Manatee County Utilities Department Strategic Affairs Manager Amy Pilson sent an email to the public works directors in the Manatee County cities, but her email was not sent directly sent to the Island’s city mayors.
“Due to the anticipated impacts of Tropical Storm Elsa, the Manatee County Landfill will be closed and all collection services in the unincorporated areas will be suspended tomorrow, Tuesday, July 6,” Pilson stated in her email.
Murphy said no one from the county or Waste Management contacted him directly to explain the situation, but Public Works Manager Dean Jones was initially notified by Waste Management of the additional service disruption.
“Dean couldn’t even get ahold of them to find out what’s going on. The word coming from Waste Management was basically non-existent. I’ve asked Dean to schedule an appointment with Waste Management because I’m very dissatisfied with their communications. It was a fiasco. They obviously had no plan for an emergency, especially following a three-day weekend when the garbage is already piling up,” Murphy said.
“If you can send me an email every time my bill is due, then why can’t you send me an email and tell me you’re not going to provide service? I also know they have the capability to do robocalls. Why wasn’t that employed?” he added.
“The call came after the fact,” Commissioner Carol Carter noted.
The city of Anna Maria extended its contract with Waste Management in 2019. At that time, Waste Pro also submitted a bid to provide those exclusive citywide services. When presenting the Waste Pro proposal, company representative Bob ten Haaf noted Waste Pro has its own trash processing company and is not dependent on the landfill. The commission ultimately voted 4-1 to enter into another contract with Waste Management.
Murphy said there’s a clause in the Waste Management contract that allows the city to renegotiate if the city is dissatisfied with their performance.
“Maybe we can resolve it. My intent is we have in place a good emergency plan even when there’s a holiday which impacts the garbage pickup. There’s no excuse for what took place,” Murphy said.
If Murphy feels the need to renegotiate after his pending meeting with Waste Management representatives, he will seek that commission authorization on July 22.
Commissioner Jon Crane said he was frustrated because he couldn’t find one reliable source of information regarding the impacted collection dates, including the Waste Management website.
Commissioner Mark Short said he was out on Willow Avenue picking up bottles and cans that were floating in the water because the uncollected bottles and cans were placed in boxes rather than trash bags, trash cans or recycle bins. Murphy said there were also failures with the side-yard pickups required of non-homesteaded residential properties.
Waste Management response
When contacted by The Sun on Friday, Waste Management regional spokesperson Dana McCormick said, “Due to the closure of the Manatee County landfill on Monday, July 5 in observance of Independence Day, Waste Management could not provide service to Anna Maria. Our scheduled make-up day was Tuesday. Then, due to the approach of Hurricane Elsa, Manatee County made the decision to close the landfill again on Tuesday. Therefore, Waste Management could not service Anna Maria on Tuesday. Our safety protocols do not allow garbage to remain in our trucks overnight.
“While our senior leadership was in frequent contact with the city of Anna Maria staff on service changes due to the closure of the Manatee County landfill, we understand our communications did not meet the city’s expectations and we will commit to do better in future storm events,” McCormick said.
“We provided service to our customers on Wednesday and Thursday upon the opening of the landfill and we’ll be back on our regular schedule next week. We look forward to our meeting with Mayor Dan Murphy,” she added.
McCormick said during regular non-storm events, property owners can go to www.WM.com and enter their address to check on current or anticipated service disruptions.
“During a tropical storm or a hurricane, we have a special website in Florida: www.WMFloridaStorm.com,” McCormick said, noting the website did contain collection information related to Manatee County and Anna Maria’s service interruptions.
Regarding the possibility that many Anna Maria property owners may not have been aware of Waste Management’s storm website, McCormick said, “We will certainly make sure during the next potential storm that both the city and its residents are better informed of that website. If there was a miscue with the Anna Maria residents, we want to make sure that is corrected before the next storm.”
In response to McCormick’s responses, Murphy said, “No matter what Waste Management’s perception of their communication plan is, our streets had overflowing garbage cans for several days. They didn’t pick up trash after a holiday weekend and that’s what they get paid to do. The end result was totally unacceptable.”