Residents living near an Amazon warehouse on the Dedham/Readville line tonight recited a litany of complaints that go back months: Van drivers who drive like maniacs, hog local gas stations in the morning and flip off other motorists.
And then there was that night back in July when a driver of a tractor-trailer making a delivery at the warehouse took down a utility pole, plunging the neighborhood into darkness. At a meeting at the Village Manor on Sprague Street, just down from the warehouse, one resident waved copies of e-mails and invoices related to the $1,500 in damage he said the driver caused to his property specifically. Amazon, he said, is refusing to reimburse him and every time he talks to somebody at the company, he gets passed off to somebody else.
Dan Barrett, who runs the Sprague Steet warehouse, and an Amazon mucky-muck up from Washington vowed to fix the problems.
"This is a work in progress, but we're going to get it right," Barrett said.
Barrett said he's already sent out directives that the drivers of the 130 vans that now work out of Sprague Street - who work for companies that work for Amazon - fill up wherever they end up at the end of their shifts, not first thing in the morning in Dedham.
He expressed suprise when residents told him that hadn't worked.
Dedham Selectmen Chairman Dennis Guilfoyle, who also lives in the area, acknowledged some drivers are no longer gassing up just down the street from the warehouse - but only because they've discovered a couple of gas stations in the Riverdale neighborhood, where, every morning between 8:15 and 8:30, numerous white vans pile into the gas stations there, all at once. "They don't even pull in normally," some winding up "ass end in the road," he said.
Ron Brock, who lives near the warehouse, said the neighborhood never had any problems with other companies in the area - including Stop & Shop, which once had a huge warehouse over the line in Readville.
"Now all of a sudden Amazon moves in and it's a giant problem," he said, adding, "I haven't seen one of your vans that hasn't got a dent in it."
"They're all smashed up, so they're hitting somebody," Guilfoyle said.
While none of the 20 residents at the meeting reported seeing van crashes first hand, they said that might only be because they've been lucky. A resident who lives directly across from the warehouse entrance said van drivers shoot out of there like they're leaving the starting line at the Indianapolis 500. One woman who bicycles down Sprague Street said the van drivers often just barrel past the stop signs at the Readville side of the Sprague Street bridge - and that when she's said something to them, they just flipped her off.
One resident recalled the bare-knuckle driving she's been forced to do when she somehow gets surrounded by a swarm of the vans. "They're riding people's bumpers, they're making gestures if you're not going fast enough. ... It can be very scary."
Barrett said drivers are supposed to obey the rules of the road and that not doing so makes drivers subject to termination. He said Amazon will be installing "telematics" systems in subcontractor vans that can provide a readout of sudden acceleration, unusual breaking and speeding. And he said he liked a suggestion by Guilfoyle to number all the vans, to make them easier to report. Currently, the vans only have a magnetic Amazon sign on them - at the request of police in Boston and Dedham.
"I can't remember if the van is from Colorado that cuts me off or the Illinois van," he said, noting that almost none of the vans have Massachusetts plates.
Other residents said one particular Amazon worker who works overnight has a faulty alarm system in his personal car that goes off pretty much every night, for 20 minutes at a time. He eventually saunters out to reset it - and then it goes off again, they said.
Barrett said residents should feel free to walk into the warehouse's side door and ask to speak to a manager. He added the company has installed high-def surveillance cameras on the property to help prevent a recurrence of an incident in July when drivers from competing subcontractors got into a fight when one tried to pick up his orders early - during the other driver's scheduled time.