Curbside recycling still suspended in Clay County as staffing shortages continue

Zoey Fields

In the most recent Waste Management staffing update from March, Clay County was understaffed by 15 employees – resulting in the continued suspension of curbside recycling.

Waste Management staffing shortages are presented to the county on the 16th of each month.

Clay County suspended its curbside recycling services in August 2021 when the county was short 40 residential drivers.

Waste Management’s CEO Greg Huntington informed Clay County commissioners on March 8 that the staffing numbers in Clay County have remained below 42 residential drivers, the number the county needs to function at full capacity.

In January 2022, Waste Management added two garbage routes to accommodate growth in the county, which took the number of employees needed from 40 to 42. Currently, Waste Management has 27 residential drivers employed in Clay County, Huntington explained.

Previously, Waste Management was offering a $10,000 sign-on bonus to new employees in an attempt to recruit workers and resume normal pick-up collection routes. The company has since reduced its sign-on bonus to $5,000, which is standard throughout the state of Florida, Waste Management Community Affairs Manager Amy Boyson said.

A new team member must be employed for 90 days to receive the bonus.

In addition to the $5,000 bonus, Waste Management has increased starting hourly wages from $20 to $24 an hour, she said.

“Our starting hourly rate for the CDL drivers with no experience is $24 per hour, and helpers start at $18 per hour,” she said. “Those with CDL experiences, even if not in the waste industry, will receive a higher hourly wage.”

Since Aug. 2021, Waste Management has hired 13 residential drivers in Clay County and lost 16.

“We continue to see very low applicant flow of CDL drivers applying in Clay County,” Huntington said in a PowerPoint presentation. “Due to the physical nature of the work and low population of CDL holders in and around Clay County.”

Waste Management data showed that between September 2021 and February 2022, they held 33 interviews for Clay County residential driver positions. Of the 33, four withdrew after the interview, 13 were not selected and 16 offers were made with the $10,000 sign-on bonus included after 90 days of work.

“The problem is two-fold,” Assistant County Manager Charlie Latham said. “There was the initial Covid-19 shutdown, but then we saw another decrease in interest as government reform packages and stimulus checks were sent out. People didn’t and still don’t want to work.”

The county-ordered studies with two statewide consulting groups are set to be presented to county commissioners in mid-May to reevaluate the waste issue in Clay County, Latham said. The study will analyze past years and waste collection in the county, while also looking ahead toward improvements over the course of the next 20 to 30 years.

It is likely that the studies will recommend automated garbage trucks, County Public Information Officer Annaleasa Winter said.

“Results will be coming in soon and we have already been told that the majority of counties are switching over to this system because it eliminates the need for more employees,” she said. “The transition is very expensive, but it is something we will likely have to consider.”

Automated garbage trucks significantly eliminate the need for more manpower — allowing trucks to pick up garbage and recycling bins on their own without the need for one or two individuals on the back of the truck. They have proven successful in the city of Jacksonville, and are being considered in Clay County.

Monthly staffing updates are posted regularly to the Clay County website at https://www.claycountygov.com/community/garbage-and-recycling

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Clay County staffing shortages remain below full-capacity resulting in the continued suspension of curbside pickup.Getty Images

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Accredited journalist with experience covering a wide range of stories consisting of breaking news, city and county government, crime and courts, feature stories and local interest. Facebook Bulletin writer, reporter; The Learning Curve. Twitter: @zoeyfields0

Jacksonville, FL
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