What has been described as months of intermittent service and pointless billing by the Waste Management Board boiled over Thursday night at the North Middleton Town supervisors meeting, here’s the event. The latest in a string of public outcry over the apparent demise of the trash-delivery service.
Many town residents have described missed weeks of picking and gathering as occurring randomly and often indiscriminately, with trash strewn around neighborhoods from already torn bags.
To add insult to injury, residents said, Waste Management also bills inconsistently and often sends overdue notices for long-paid bills, with charges that cannot be disbursed. Likely as a surcharge paid by check.
It’s now a health and safety issue, describing weeks of stagnant garbage that began to flood the town’s waterways, said town resident Anna Basom. “They are in the process of making our community their personal dumping ground.”
Representatives from the Waste Management Division attended Thursday’s meeting, giving the same explanation they gave other communities – the company is struggling to hire in the market. Tight labor and supply disruptions have made it difficult to maintain their fleet of garbage trucks.
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But residents expressed concern that the company was stretching its legs in solving problems that had dragged on for months, because city officials had failed to act.
“I’m very concerned that you’ve let this go on for so long,” Basom said. “You act as if your hands are tied. When we went to Waste Management they told us ‘our hands are tied. “
“It was a slap in the face,” says town resident Lara Brenckle (who is married to Sentinel photographer Jason Malmont). “They are responsible for allocating the manpower they have. If they can’t do that, we need to find someone else.”
North Middleton Township’s waste problem is not isolated. Other towns in the county, such as Middlesex and South Middleton, have also seen a rise in similar complaints over the past few months.
The same thing happened across the country. Report news from places like Columbia, South Carolina, Antioch, Tennessee, and New Berlin, Wisconsin, said similar problems were experienced in Cumberland County.
In most cases, residents cite the same timeline – the trash service that was originally contracted with Advanced Disposal was taken over by Waste Management after they purchased the old service at the end 2020, at which point things started going downhill.
North Middleton is in a similar situation. Like most municipalities, the town negotiates a multi-year contract with a waste treatment company to service the town at a fixed cost charged to each household. This was originally Advanced Disposal and the contract was transferred with the acquisition by Waste Management.
Robert Reisinger, chairman that oversees North Middleton, said the town is in the fourth year of a five-year contract.
The relatively long term of the contract allows the town to lock in costs low, at $40 per quarter, Reisinger said. When the town re-tenders the contract next year, the price will likely more than double at current prices.
Some residents at Thursday’s meeting said they would be less worried about this; they would rather pay $90 per quarter for a service that performs well than $40 for a service that is at best non-existent and in some cases harmful.
Tom Stang, Waste Management’s city marketing manager for the area, told supervisors his local team “really did all we could” to provide the service. best possible.
“It’s not new to me or any of us,” Stang said. “It also marked me.”
“We had a parts problem, we had a problem with suppliers buying parts,” said Tad Brown, local area manager for Waste Management.
The company has held several job fairs and raised wages by nearly 25%, Brown said, but recruiting “wasn’t easy and there weren’t many knocks on the door.”
But residents say this won’t be an issue in 2020, despite the impact of the pandemic – the variable is Waste Management.
Much of it has to do with communication. One resident described being informed by the Waste Management Board that the pick-up had been delayed by a week, and the residents moved their trash cans back inside, only to have the garbage truck show up the next day. when there’s nothing.
Another resident said, by her calculations, she overpaid for her cleaning service because Waste Management seems to send different bills for the same things. Another resident said he was notified of a $8.50 monthly fee for using checks instead of allowing Waste Management to receive payments directly from his bank account.
The problems behind the communication and payment problems are less obvious, but at least at the street level, “I think we’re getting over the barrier of some of what you’ve been through,” Brown said.
Stang offered to return to a later meeting for follow-up, which supervisors said they would keep him on.
“I’ll take your offer that you’ll come back next month and let us know how good things are,” said supervisor James Hare.
The supervisors gave no indication of how aggressively they might want to pursue financial or legal measures, but those measures are available to them, attorney Zachary Rice said.
“There is a contractual fines mechanism in place for these cases that would allow the town to fine the Waste Management Board $200 per resident per day for unrepaired pick-ups,” Rice said. within 24 hours.
The town government can also cancel the contract, Rice said, by confirming in writing that Waste Management has ceased implementation.
Waste Management completed its Advanced Disposal merger on October 30, 2020, with a $4.65 million repurchase of Advanced Disposal’s remaining shares, according to the company’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. and Interstate Transactions.
The company’s service problems are not caused by limited cash or low turnover. Waste Management has entered into multiple stock repurchase agreements in 2021, according to its last quarterly report, with share buybacks in the first nine months of the year reaching $1 billion compared with $402 million in the same period a year. 2020, resulting in a jump in the company’s share price.
Since taking over many of Advanced Disposal’s landfills, Waste Management has dodged agreements to contribute to Cumberland County funds for waste collection and recycling programs – an issue specifically pointed out by Brenckle. out to Stang at the North Middleton meeting.
Such financial contributions are voluntarily made by landfill owners as part of their agreement with the county under a state-required capacity plan, which is required to be completed every 10 years under the environmental regulations to ensure that trash has a suitable place to go, according to county recycling coordinator Justin Miller.
Under the county’s most recent capacity plan, available online, four landfills formerly owned by Advanced Disposal have agreed to contribute $5,000 annually to household hazardous waste collection and public education. This funding is also used for electronics recycling, unwanted drug disposal, and other public programs.
One of the landfills has been transferred to a third company, Miller said, and the other three are retained by Waste Management. None of the four locations have yet to offer their contributions for 2021, leaving county programs with a $20,000 shortfall.
Instead of offering to fund any program, Waste Management’s agreements in the county capacity contract included lengthy letters from the company’s attorneys opposing the legality of the counties asking for donations. so.
“We don’t really have any progress or clarity on whether they intend to continue [the contributions],” Miller told The Sentinel on Friday.
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