The Ottumwa Courier

April 16, 2014

Waste Management wants to stay in Keosauqua

By RUSTY EBERT
Courier correspondent

---- — KEOSAUQUA — Waste Management told the city of Keosauqua that it was not interested in ending the contract it has for solid waste and recycling services it provides to the city.

A representative told the city mayor that it intends to fulfill the contract, which expires in 2020.

Delegates to the solid waste committee meeting on April 9 spent a majority of their time discussing the Keosauqua’s request to withdraw from the solid waste contract with Waste Management.

On Jan. 11, 2012, the Van Buren County Service Agency (also known as the solid waste commission) entered into an agreement with Waste Management to provide service to communities in the county. The term of the contract was for eight years, terminating on June 30, 2020. The agreement gave Waste Management “exclusive rights to solid waste/recycling materials” under the terms of the contract. All other towns were listed, except for the city of Farmington, which contracts its own service.

According to Mark Meek, the commission and Waste Management were in the middle of an agreement when the current contract was signed. It essentially extended the previous contract, set to expire in 2015, for another five years.

Keosauqua is a member of the solid waste commission. The Keosauqua representative didn’t attend the meetings when the contract was signed, according to Ray Snyder, chairman of the commission.

Since then, a local solid waste/recycling company, Sedore Trash Removal, was established, and the city of Keosauqua has been in contact with them. Nasseem Hesler was elected as Keosauqua mayor in November 2013 and began her duties in January 2014. At its March 2014 meeting, the city of Keosauqua voted to explore the possibility of switching its service provider to Sedore, which currently serves commercial businesses in Keosauqua.

The city of Keosauqua has several problems with the current contract, Hesler told commission members at last Wednesday’s meeting.

“The language used indicates it was drafted by Waste Management. All of the clauses you find in the contract favor them. There is no termination clause, no provisions for buyout. The terms benefit Waste Management, including the raises," Hesler said. “I have a problem with it being for eight years."

Hesler doesn’t dispute that Waste Management provides good service but disputes the contract and its cost to city residents. “Right now, the low ball estimate (from Sedore) is $120,000 in savings to the Keosauqua customers over the next five years,” said Hesler.

Hesler added she would like to save money for her citizens, which would stay in the community and also help to support a local company that provides citizens with employment opportunities. She said the contract was like telling the community “that we can’t use local plumbers or electricians. This is not a local company. It’s a national company that doesn’t care about the community.” She said Keosauqua was the largest customer in the county. She acknowledged that the Keosauqua representative wasn’t present when the renewal was being negotiated but also stated that Keosauqua didn’t sign the contract.

Mark Meek, supervisor delegate, said he understood Hesler’s concerns about the contract’s length.

Waste Management was given an extension during a time when the larger recycling containers were being considered. At the time, Waste Management was going to charge customers for the new container. In return for the extension, Waste Management dropped the charge, Meek said. The extension wasn’t for eight years, Meek said, as it happened in the middle of the existing contract. It was a five-year extension. “We did the best we could at the time,” Snyder said. “We never had some fallback provider like we do now. When the contract is up, you’ll have your say.”

A representative of Waste Management said it wasn’t interested in pursuing a buyout. “It’s a fixed term contract, and none of that language exists in it,” said David Schaab, municipal marketing manager with Waste Management. “The contract is fully valid and we have every intention of fulfilling the contract. There is no mechanism to get out. We are fully ready to meet our end of the agreement."