Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

TOP STORY >> Cabot to reduce garbage fee

Leader staff writer

Residential garbage rates will go down in Cabot beginning in August when the cost for the service will drop from $16.45 to $14.40.

The city’s contract with IESI ends July 31 and Waste Management will take over Aug. 1.

The city council’s vote Monday night to give the exclusive franchise for residential and commercial garbage collection to Waste Management was 5-3.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams had hoped to continue the existing rates after the new contract started so the city could keep the difference of $2.05 a month from about 10,000 households to pay for drainage projects.But City Attorney Jim Taylor’s research last week showed that it would be illegal for the city to keep the money and use it for anything not related to garbage collection.

The mayor said after the council meeting that he still intends to begin work on drainage problems using money that had been set aside to start a city-operated garbage service if the proposed rates submitted by private companies were more than residents are paying now.

Eddie Cook, Ed Long, Jon Moore, Ann Gilliam and Rick Prentice voted for the contract with Waste Management. Tom Armstrong, Lisa Brickell and Patrick Hutton voted against it.

For a time during the meeting, it appeared that the contract might not be awarded.

Four of the council members were opposed to Waste Manage-ment getting the exclusive right to provide commercial collection because in some cases city businesses will have to pay more for the service with Waste Management than they pay now with other companies.

A proposed amendment to the ordinance would have allowed other companies to continue hauling commercial garbage in the city even after the contracts with their customers expire. The council vote on the amendment was four to four with the mayor voting to break the tie to allow the ordinance to pass as drafted without the amendment.

The proposed amendment would have taken the word “exclusive” out of the contract.
Hutton, who proposed the amendment, voted for it as did Prentice, Brickell and Armstrong.

Wayne Rathbun, director of business development with Waste Management, told the council that if the council took away his company’s exclusive right to provide the service to commercial customers, the residential rates also would have to be reevaluated and could increase.

He also told the council that his company had negotiated with the city in good faith and that other companies should not be allowed to enter into contracts with commercial customers now to keep from losing them when Waste Management takes over in August.

Larry Phillips, owner of Zella’s, with about 120 commercial customers in Cabot, said after the meeting that he intended to get signed contracts from as many of his customers as possible before Waste Management takes over.

The mayor said in a later interview that the city would not try to stop any of the other garbage haulers in Cabot from entering into contracts with businesses.

All contracts that are in place when Waste Management takes over will be honored, he said.

Phillips was not the only disgruntled garbage hauler who attended the council meeting.

Former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, the municipal marketing manager for IESI, told the council that his company’s proposals were separate for residential and commercial service.

If they had been together, the residential bid might have been lower, he said.

IESI last year submitted a proposal for residential garbage collection for more than $20 a month. “You get what you pay for — $14.40 is a very low rate,” Stumbaugh said.

Contacted Tuesday afternoon, Rathbun said Cabot residents would be happy with Waste Management.

“We only have two things to offer — rates and service — and they’re both good,” he said.