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After Months Of Insufficient Garbage Pickup In New Orleans, Trash CEO Claims Help Is On The Way

A woman stands at a podium addressing a man dressed in a suit behind a pane of Plexiglass during a city council meeting.
Ryan Nelsen
Jimmie Woods (center), co-owner and CEO of Metro Service Group, listens to a woman give public comment during a City Council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021.

Tuesday morning's City Council focusing on trash collection almost didn't happen. When Mayor LaToya Cantrell didn't send a member from her administration to the meeting, councilmembers worried if their answers from trash collection agencies would be correct and accountable.

With many of their constituents going more than three weeks since their last trash pickup, councilmembers moved forward, questioning both Metro Services Group and Richard’s Disposal for updates.

"Since January 1, Metro has missed 12,975 pickups according to 3-1-1, and then Richard’s has missed 4,377," Councilmember Karen G. Palmer said to a lawyer representing both groups.

The excuse has been the same since the city saw workers for Metro go on strike last year in an effort to get higher pay and have better conditions: There simply aren't enough workers for the job.

And the aftermath of Hurricane Ida has created more trash than normal, increasing the problem.

"We've touched everyone in our service areas’ garbage cans at least twice, and we've started taking six bags outside of the cans," said Deidra Jones, the Chief Marketing Officer of Richard’s Disposal.

"But it's not even putting a dent in the bags."

Jones said that a regular day’s route now takes her company two and a half days. The company has ordered an emergency shipment of "Boom trucks" that can use claws to collect trash with only one driver so the company can collect more waste with fewer workers.

While Richards is behind schedule, Metro still hasn't reached all of its service regions since the storm hit the city, meaning spoiled food from power outages have been festering in cans for weeks.

Jimmie Woods, co-owner and CEO of Metro, said the city would see a "significant" amount of workers and equipment this weekend. Woods arrived late to the meeting as he was communicating with Cantrell's administration.

The Mayor's office would not confirm the arrival of more workers or equipment.

Woods was also ridiculed during the public comment portion of the meeting. As he sat behind plexiglass, Mathilde Lemann stood several feet away and pointed out that Woods's mansion looked pristine after the storm and had no trash in front of it.

Lemann said her trash had not been collected since 10 days before Hurricane Ida hit. Lemann owns a double shotgun house, so she pays $48 a month and has had spotty service going back five months.

"I want $240 back," Lemann said to the council.

Lately, Lemann said the city seems focused on helping the tourism industry and not the locals. She said the city isn’t even providing residents with the most basic city service — garbage collection.

"I've been born and raised here. I've defended the city all my life, it’s been worth it to be here through all of the aggravation, the incompetence and the corruption," Lemann said. "I always thought I would die here. But now I just don't know."

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