When trash pickup days shifted for nearly 79,000 Fort Worth households in November, residents and council members weren’t happy about how they learned of the changes. 

Several residents said they didn’t know about their new waste collection day until after the day passed. Even District 9 council member Elizabeth Beck was unaware of which neighborhoods in her district were affected until the week changes were rolled out.

“We got this really wrong in some major ways,” Beck said during a Nov. 15 work session. “We didn’t communicate with our residents, we didn’t communicate with our council members, we had incorrect information on the website.”

Now, Fort Worth’s code compliance department says staff will finalize route changes further in advance and increase their outreach efforts through door hangers, social media campaigns and updates on the city’s website. 

In a Feb. 7 informal report to council members, city manager David Cooke’s office wrote that exact route changes will be finalized and shared with council members four to six months before they go into effect. 

“This process would include an explanation on the reasons for the change, how it will be rolled out and an opportunity to solicit and act on input from the various stakeholders,” the report reads. 

While the November re-routes were discussed among city staff for almost a year prior to the rollout, final preparations and exact route changes “came much later in the process,”according to the informal report. 

Brandon Bennett, the city’s code compliance director, took responsibility for all issues with the rollout in November. Fort Worth City Council members did not discuss the report during a Feb. 7 work session, and Bennett was not available for an interview Tuesday. 

“You don’t mess with people’s taxes and you don’t mess with their trash, right?” Bennett said in November. “And any time you do, there’s always something that just doesn’t fire off right.” 

The report acknowledges that “messaging to the community was late in getting out.” Postcards were sent to affected customers – a third of all Fort Worth households – during the week of Oct. 31, or the week before changes went into effect. City staff drove all affected routes, which touched every council district in Fort Worth, and affixed educational flyers to trash carts placed out on the wrong day, according to the report. 

Bags of trash were picked up by volunteers during the Cowtown Great American Cleanup piles up in a trailer on March 26. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Two more rounds of mailers were sent out for two additional weeks as reminders, and extra bags were collected free of charge for the first three weeks of the route changes. District 3 council member Michael Crain was critical of the decision to notify residents of an important change at the same time they were inundated with campaign mail during the November election – an issue noted in the city manager’s report. 

Though the city’s One Address lookup system was functional during the rollout, third-party app ReCollect experienced an error that led many residents to see incorrect information when looking up their new trash collection route. Future rollouts will include system testing 30 days in advance of any major changes, according to the report. 

In the future, city staff plan to use door hangers to ensure residents receive information in another format and in a timely manner. More alerts will be issued through the city’s website and the MyFW app, along with outreach on NextDoor and social media platforms, prior to the changes. 

Neighborhood associations and other groups can expect earlier updates on trash route changes as well, according to the informal report. New route maps, which were not available during the November rollout, will also be distributed and posted on the city’s website. 

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org

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Haley SamselEnvironmental Reporter

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org. Her coverage is made possible by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman...