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Add one more person to the long list of people disappointed in how the city’s botched Supercan rollout going: Vince Gray.
“I’m not happy about the way this has gone,” Gray said at a morning press conference.
Gray pushed back on the idea that the Supercan replacement program, which has featured piles of abandoned cans, a “physical altercation,” and the trashing of thousands of bins intended for recycling, had been accelerated to help with his ultimately failed primary bid.
“If there was some political motive, we could’ve picked ‘Neighborhood X,’ some particular precinct, something like that,” Gray said.
Whatever the reason, emails obtained by LL through the Freedom of Information Act request show employees for both the District and Supercan contractor Toter working on a tight schedule. In November, Department of Public Works’ Sybil Hammond emailed other DPW employees and described the replacement scheme as “fast-moving.” In a December email to DPW’s Gena Johnson, Toter employee Jim Pickett lamented that his company had to make more cans than the District initially asked for in a letter of intent because of the “compressed schedule.”
The was further complicated after D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson successfully opposed an effort to pay for the Supercans by taking money out of a city trust fund meant for retirees. In another December email, Pickett complained that the financial backup after Mendelson defeated the fund move had left his company “reaching the crisis point.”
DPW head William Howland, who’s probably wishing right about now that he had followed other lame-duck Gray administration officials out the door, took responsibility for the $9 million program’s mistakes this morning. Howland said he approved the use of trash crews to pick up unwanted cans, a move that left around 5,000 cans too compacted by trash trucks to be recycled. The lost material could roughly the District roughly $7,500 in lost rebates from Toter.
Howland said he authorized $130,000 in overtime just to get the piled-up cans off the street.
“It was whatever it took to make this story go away, which it won’t go away,” Howland said.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery