The city attorney’s office and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter have alerted Waste Management that the company’s residential garbage and subscription yard waste services have failed to meet expectations for months.
Garbage bags have gone uncollected, causing bins to overflow, and fines for hundreds of missed pick-ups have piled up.
Problems appear to have worsened in November, but the mayor claims that repeated attempts to persuade the city’s major residential garbage carrier to make up for missed collections have failed.
“We have ratepayers who have contributed to the provision of a service.” That service is vital to people’s lives, health, and safety. “That service has not been given,” Carter said in a Friday interview. “It’s been months, and we still don’t have any remedy.” I’ve received 2,800 missing service complaints in the first ten days of this month. This is inexcusable. It’s unworkable for me, and there’s no way out for me unless those people get rebates.”
The city has already imposed $81,200 in liquidated damages to the nation’s largest garbage management business, which is situated in Houston, Texas.
The mayor’s administration claims that the majority of skips are due to yard debris, but garbage pickup has also been overdue, with certain routes being missed for several weeks in a row. According to St. Paul Public Works, the successive misses are broad and do not appear to be concentrated in any one area of the city.
The city attorney’s office wrote a letter to attorneys representing the consortium of five garbage carriers that serve the citywide garbage program, which collects trash for all one-to-four unit residential structures in St. Paul, on Friday. According to the city attorney’s office, the consortium as a whole isn’t off the hook since their contract with the city compels them to fill in when other carriers fail to meet contractual responsibilities.
According to the mayor, this hasn’t happened yet. By June 15, he wants to meet with the consortium’s whole governing board.
“Although no decision has been made,” the city attorney’s office writes, “the city is evaluating every action possible under the contract.”
There were 15 transporters on board when the city inked a five-year deal with the waste carrying consortium in 2017, but mergers, acquisitions, and industry exits have reduced the number to five.
As a result, Waste Management has a disproportionately high number of customers in St. Paul, accounting for 56 percent of the city’s one-to-four-unit dwellings. In October 2020, the business completed its $4.6 billion national acquisition of Advanced Disposal.
Carter believes the consortium is working on a backup plan to absorb various segments of under-serviced routes, but “my issue is that, based on the contract language, that contingency plan should have been in place already, and active for the previous six months,” he said.
The city’s five-year contract with the consortium expires this year, but the garbage and yard waste saga is threatening to disrupt discussions about renewing it.
“While this is unresolved, there will be no renegotiation of the next contract,” the mayor added.