Government, Latest News, Morgantown Council

Haws sits in on first meeting as council gets assurances from trash hauler

MORGANTOWN — Tuesday was a busy first day for Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws.

Haws said he spent much of the day making the rounds, introducing himself to city staff and employees before sitting down for his first meeting of Morgantown City Council.

“I’m really impressed with the sense of family and the sense of comradery that I sensed there,” Haws said of the city workforce.

Members of council welcomed Haws and reiterated their appreciation for the work of Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli, who has led the city since May as its interim manager.

“I just think we have a great staff and a promising future, I think, as we move forward,” Councilor Bill Kawecki said.

Haws said the support and well wishes he’s received from the community have him ready to get to work.

“I just think there’s a real opportunity here for us to do some great things all together, and I look forward to doing that,” he said.

As for council business, trash was once again a topic of discussion as Tom Beary, Republic Services General Manager for Northern West Virginia, and Cassie Mercer, who oversees Morgantown operations out of Republic’s Fairmont hub, joined the remote meeting to address reoccurring concerns over missed pickups.

Republic Services has an exclusive contract to haul trash and recycling within the city, but that service has been called into question regularly by this and previous councils. Most recently, on Nov. 4, members said the city should consider enforcing penalties built into Republic’s contract.

Beary said he wasn’t excusing missed service when he pointed out that a COVID-19 outbreak sidelined about 20% of the local workforce in late fall.

“We’re essentially hiring about 30% above our capacity needs right now trying to maintain. So, going forward, regardless of what happens, we should be able to maintain without disruptions to service up to about a 40% loss in employees on the front line,” he said.

With all those new faces, Mercer said the hauler is also altering how it handles the sequencing of routes, making pickups reliant on a set process instead of the institutional knowledge of specific drivers.

“It’s kind of taking the people knowledge factor out of it, so that way you get the same service level regardless of who’s on the route,” she said.

Lastly, Beary said both he and Mercer are addressing and auditing call center procedures to make sure all failures are recovered within 24 hours.

He said missed service, or feedback of any kind, can be directed to 304-366-8900.

Also on Tuesday, council approved on first reading a lease agreement with the Monongalia County Health Department for 1,917 square-feet of office space and 2,151 square-feet of garage space in the former NOROP building at the Morgantown Municipal Airport. The two-year lease is for $45,000 annually.

Lastly, council approved on first reading the zoning reclassification of a subdivided parcel on Burroughs Street from R-1 (single family) to B-2 (service business).

The city is required to make the change by order of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.