City audit discovers high costs in employee overtime in the bulky waste pick-up program
A pilot program will start up next year to replace the current monthly system for some residents, which will require them to call for bulky waste collection.
HONOLULU - You may have seen the trash piling up along Oahu streets.
It's a mess and so are some of the findings in the city's audit of the bulky waste pick-up program.
The audit found excessively high costs in employee overtime, sick leave and leave without pay.
It also found delays in bulky waste pick-up and inefficient collection pick up procedures because of the current contract with the union.
"We found the top 10 employees with the highest sick leave took 746 sick days or an average of 74 sick days per person," Edwin Young, a city auditor said.
Helping contribute to the nearly $2 million in overtime pay in the course of a year, was the excessive amount of leave without pay taken by employees.
"Of the 21 employees who took leave without pay, some employees took as much as 142 days of leave without pay," Young said.
Lori Kahekina heads the city's Department of Environmental Services.
"I knew sick leave was a problem, but the leave without pay was an eye opener for me," Kahekina said.
She says there isn't much the city can do about it, until the current union contract is re-negotiated.
"Regarding the leave without pay, we are in talks with DHR enforcing more...that you don't have that leave so you can't take off that day," Kahekina said.
The city is looking at ways to be more efficient in collecting bulky waste.
Ideas include better scheduling of employees and starting a pilot program next year for call-in collection instead of the current monthly pickup.
"Our crews are driving every street to see if there is anything to pick up. It is so inefficient. Where as if we know, we will go out there and it is not a free for all. We'll tell the person to put it out this day and we'll pick it up the next. And it is not the 'you're putting trash out, I'll add to the pile'," Kahekina said.
Piles of bulky waste are another persistent problem across Oahu.
"Once someone puts out something, it becomes a huge dump site," Carol Fukunaga, Honolulu City Councilwoman said.
Not just bulky items, but regular rubbish according to the city auditor.
"We found that residents were placing regular refuse along with bulky items, so things that should have gone into the blue and green bins went into bulky items and that created extra work for ENV," Young said.
More work, understaffed crews and an inefficient collection system contributes to the city's costs and keeps many residents waiting for bulky items to be picked up from their neighborhood.
"If we can get to be more efficient, we can get the overtime to drop," Kahekina said.
Being more efficient isn't the only change the city director would like to make.
She'd also like residents to help offset some of the $100 million annual cost for the Department of Environmental Services.
"I think we do need to charge for our services, not just bulky but all of our refuse collection because the level of services we are providing now is not sustainable," Kahekina said.