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Johnson County cities grow frustrated with trash pickup delays — sometimes lasting weeks

Republic Services trash bins on a Shawnee street. The company has been at the center of trash pickup delays across Johnson County.
Kaylie McLaughlin
Shawnee Mission Post
Republic Services trash bins on a Shawnee street. The company has been at the center of trash pickup delays across Johnson County.

Republic Services is back in the hot seat with Overland Park, Shawnee, Lenexa and Prairie Village residents, with some residents going without trash pickup for weeks. Two of the cities have fined the waste management company, but none so far have severed their contracts.

Johnson Countians are once again experiencing trash pickup delays.

Less than a year after widespread Republic Services delays, some residents in Johnson County’s biggest cities are still seeing trash sit on curbs for weeks on end.

Republic Services is back in the hot seat with Overland Park, Shawnee, Lenexa and Prairie Village residents.

“We acknowledge that these areas have experienced delays and are working with our customers to remedy the situation,” Republic Services Media Relations said in a statement to the Post. “We are committed to our customers and to ensuring uninterrupted service moving forward.”

Here’s what the trash pickup delay issue looks like in Johnson County.

Prairie Village has fined Republic for missed pickups

When trash pickups are delayed in Prairie Village, the problem is widespread because the city contracts solely with Republic, the Phoenix-based waste company, to haul away curbside waste. (Exceptions include some homeowners associations that have contracts with other trash haulers.)

The city is on year seven of a 10-year contract, which covers the vast majority of Prairie Village residents.

City Administrator Wes Jordan told the Prairie Village City Council last week that the city is aware of recent missed waste pickups by Republic. This was an issue at the beginning of the year, as well.

The ongoing service issues lead to angry residents calling city hall, Jordan said.

“We are the largest city in Johnson County to broker a trash service, and when it is not working properly, we are getting overwhelmed with calls,” Jordan said.

Jordan said in his meetings with Republic’s general manager and other representatives, they have said staffing shortages remain the root cause of missed pickups.

Republic struggles to hire drivers with a commercial license, mechanics and dispatch service providers, Jordan said. The company is also having trouble getting waste trucks, he said.

Republic Services has already been fined by several cities for late trash pickup.
Kaylie McLaughlin
Shawnee Mission Post
Republic Services has already been fined by several cities for late trash pickup.

Jordan said that based on his talks with Republic, the city is “cautiously optimistic” that Republic will turn things around. Jordan said the city will see what happens over the next few weeks, “but they’re going to work hard to earn our service.”

While the city is imposing fines against Republic, “the bigger price is losing this contract,” Jordan added.

This year alone, the city has fined Republic $7,000 because of failure to deliver on contracted services, according to a Sept. 26 city e-newsletter.

“We are twisting arms as much as we can and Republic is being receptive, it’s not like we’re speaking into a deaf ear — or I would tell you that, too,” Jordan said.

Watch the entire conversation between Jordan and the city council about Republic Services online here, starting at 1:54:57.

Overland Park and Shawnee residents go weeks without service

Residents who live west of Nieman Road in Overland Park’s Oak Park Homes Association went at least three weeks without trash services in August and September.

The homeowners association covers more than 2,300 homes and runs between roughly 95th Street and Interstate 435 to the north and south and U.S. Highway 69 and Rosehill Drive to the east and west.

The HOA’s board of directors told residents on Sept. 12 that they were working to address the issue.

The Oak Park Homeowners Association pays Republic $476,000 annually for trash services, according to the announcement.

The message said that the HOA cannot easily change trash haulers because it is in the middle of a five-year contract with Republic. If the HOA broke the contract, then it would still be responsible for paying Republic through the contract’s end in 2026.

“Please be assured that the Oak Park Board of Directors is aware of and actively addressing the problems with Republic trash pickup,” the Sept. 12 message reads. “As fellow Oak Park residents, we’re frustrated too.”

Fox 4 also reported that several Shawnee residents are experiencing the same problem with Republic. Some have only had their trash picked up twice in the past two months.

Trash pickup delays carry over into Lenexa

A sign on a Republic Services trash bin in 2022.
Joe Gilman
Shawnee Mission Post
A sign on a Republic Services trash bin in 2022.

Complaints about problems with trash services have been echoed in Lenexa, where several trash haulers have licenses, including Waste Management and Republic Services.

City Manager Beccy Yocham said Lenexa staff have seen an uptick in complaints in recent weeks about the quality of Republic’s services.

“These have been about missed pick ups and poor communication, so the same type of concerns we usually hear, just a bit more frequently lately,” Yoccham told the Post via email.

Yocham said the city also previously cited and fined Republic Services for violating the city’s policy on commercial collections.

Additionally, one Lenexa resident told the Post that he’s planning to raise the issue at a public meeting, citing concerns that both the city and Waste Management, a licensed trash hauler that oversees the county’s landfill operations, are failing to do their jobs.

Vince Milum said that after the Labor Day holiday, Waste Management breached its contract with him by failing to collect his recycling on time.

“My ‘demand’ to have my recycle bin picked up under a City Contract when I pay for such service is not ‘personal to me,’” he wrote in a letter to the City of Lenexa. “It is an obligation owed to me by Waste Management and the enforcement of such is mandated by City Code.”

Lisa Disbrow, a spokesperson for Waste Management, told the Post the company will follow up with Milum to resolve his service issue.

“WM is committed to providing the most reliable collection service in the industry,” Disbrow said via email. “If a missed collection happens, we focus on immediately making it right for our customer to mitigate future service issues.”

Yocham said the city weighs the matter seriously whether to revoke a trash hauler’s license because it would impact even more residents who would then have to switch trash services.

“If we revoked [Waste Management’s] license to haul in Lenexa, over half of our residents and many businesses would be without service for some period of time, which is, frankly, a much larger problem than a few missed pickups in an isolated area,” Yocham said. “Further, we have reason to believe that the other haulers who are licensed in our community would not have the operational capacity to pick up all the Waste Management business.”

Yocham said the city takes violations seriously, but late pickups don’t count as violations. The city gets about one or two complaints about trash collection each week.

Andrew Gaug and Kaylie McLaughlin contributed to this report.

This story was originally published on the Shawnee Mission Post.

Juliana Garcia is a reporter with the Shawnee Mission Post.
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