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County furious with Waste Management over trash contract


Indian River County’s plan to institute mandatory garbage pickup to stop people from putting garbage in recycling bins ended up on the trash heap after county commissioners and staff clashed with the county’s waste hauling contractor.

Angry commissioners scrapped the notion of mandatory trash pickup after tempers flared during a recent board meeting.  “Our relationship with Waste Management is broken at this point and I don’t know how we move forward,” Commission Vice Chair Susan Adams said.

The conflict was set up when commissioners discussed implementing mandatory garbage pickup for households in unincorporated areas of the county to curb contamination of recycling bins after the county’s recycling vendor reported a 34 percent contamination rate, with dead animals, soiled diapers and chicken bones ending up in the blue bins. 

That figure should be lower than 20 percent, and county officials said the excess contamination was a threat to the county’s entire state-mandated recycling program.

The commission tentatively agreed to add a $51 mandatory garbage-service assessment to next year’s tax bills to cover the first six months of a program that would have started April 1.

But Waste Management then proposed new terms to its existing contract with the county that was inked in 2015.

The new provisions included an exemption from fines if it failed to pick up trash during any program rollout, permission to use older vehicles, and what the county characterized as a contrived rate hike from $10.14 per month to $14.54 per month for residents outside of the Urban Service Area.

A representative from Waste Management, however, claims the company needed a defined plan and more time to roll out a mandatory program.

Commissioners vehemently objected to Waste Management’s interpretation of the contract and accused the company of using the moment to renegotiate the 2015 deal.

The county was willing to work with Waste Management on the rollout, allowing them more time to order trucks and trash bins, but rejected the company’s arbitrary pricing, County Administrator Jason Brown said.

“I’m mystified by the response we’ve gotten,” Brown said.