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Here’s the latest Mass. town suffering through weeks of uncollected, rotting trash

“I expect you’ll be paying for our rat … problem since your company can’t be bothered to pick up our trash.”

In this 2013 photo, Republic Services recycling truck driver Jerry Bates makes his rounds in Las Vegas. L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP

Reading is threatening to cancel the town’s contract with its trash hauler after weeks of “incomplete, sporadic, and unpredictable” collection left garbage piling up curbside. 

Since the issues began Oct. 3, the town has received thousands of calls, emails, and service requests from increasingly angry and exasperated residents, according to a statement from Town Manager Fidel Maltez. 

In twice daily conversations with Reading’s contractor, Arizona-based Republic Services, Maltez and the town’s Department of Public Works sought to address performance issues and flag missed pick-ups. But follow-through on the company’s part has been minimal and unpredictable, the town said. 

“While Republic Services has repeatedly promised to fix performance deficiencies, the company has continually underperformed with incomplete pick-ups, understaffed operations, not sending promised resources, and more, resulting in numerous neighborhoods suffering as many as three weeks without trash or recycling collection,” the town said. 

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Republic Services bought out JRM Hauling and Recycling, Reading’s former provider, earlier this year. In a statement to Boston.com, the company said its northern Massachusetts arm is in a transition period due to the acquisition.

“Our team has experienced some delays during this process,” Republic Services said. “We have been in constant communication with the Town of Reading, and are working to efficiently and safely get all routes back on schedule.”

Last month, Lawrence — another community formerly served by JRM — also saw trash pile up after Republic Services took over. At the time, Lawrence Mayor Brian A. DePena said the company was navigating staffing and vehicle issues. 

In Reading, community members vented their frustrations on Twitter, with some tagging Republic Services CEO Jon Vander Ark in their complaints. 

“I expect you’ll be paying for our rat … problem since your company can’t be bothered to pick up our trash,” one user wrote

On Monday, Reading hired Boston Carting to bring in dumpsters and additional trucks, also deploying DPW staff with front-end loaders and dump trucks as part of a plan to catch up on collection by the end of the week, the town said.

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The town has told Republic Services that it will consider hiring alternative providers and will charge any additional expenses to Republic Services under the contract terms. Reading also issued an ultimatum: rectify all collection issues by the end of this week, or the town will terminate its contract with Republic Services.

Republic Services said it plans to be back on schedule by the end of this week, with regular pickup days beginning next week. The company thanked customers for their patience.

“I am proud of the way our Town staff have stepped up to respond to resident needs throughout this ordeal,” Maltez said in the town’s statement. “We will continue to press for performance satisfaction and relief under the terms of the contract, or we will find a new contractor that can meet the sanitation needs of the community.”

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