BRADENTON, Fla. - Trash pickup is still moving smoothly in Bradenton, but recycling and yard waste is piling up as staffing problems persist, but the mayor and other city workers rolled up their sleeves to fill in the gaps.
Recycling cans and piles of tree branches line many streets in the city. Bradenton resident David Thayer says he's learned to deal with it.
"It's a first world problem," he said. "There's not a problem with garbage. Household garbage they’ve been very good. Recycle and yard waste is where the issue is."
The city of Bradenton is working toward a solution.
Bradenton city employee helps with yard waste pickup
"We are hitting these problems on all fronts and it’s all hands on deck," said city administrator Rob Perry.
It takes 51 solid waste employees to keep recycling pickups moving smoothly. Currently, there are 14 job openings and five employees out with sickness.
Add additional absences and the trucks don't move as quickly as they need to.
"COVID has had a significant impact, but it’s not COVID alone," said Perry.
Bradenton city employee takes selfie while helping collect yard waste
Like the rest of the country, the city said it's dealing with a shortage of CDL-certified drivers and faces competition from higher-paying companies.
The city has taken steps to raise wages and offer bonuses to employees who stay, but shortages remain.
Mayor Gene Brown and other city employees have started volunteering on the weekend to pick up yard waste, too.
Bradenton mayor pitches in to pick up yard waste on weekends
"Yard waste is hit or miss and you could have one little bag, nothing, or a whole yard full of yard waste," said Mayor Gene Brown.
They use their own vehicle to do the collection as the city rushes to find a fix.
"The city has done such a great job over the years and now we are going through these times. And now we've got to figure out how to make it better for our residents and also all of us, but also we understand and we care," said Mayor Brown.