Town, trash hauler unable to resolve service dispute

tbarton@islandpacket.comOctober 8, 2013 

Hilton Head Island officials did not resolve a dispute with the town's trash hauler Friday, leaving open the possibility of ending the franchise agreement for residential garbage and recycling collection.

Representatives from Republic Services Inc. met with Mayor Drew Laughlin and other town officials to address complaints from residents about missed trash pickups, as well as the company's assertion the town violated its exclusive franchise agreement.

Town and company officials declined Tuesday to discuss the closed meeting, other than to say that conversations continue.

"We are continuing to talk and may result in changes to the franchise agreement, but don't have anything specific that I can talk about," town manager Steve Riley said in a phone message.

Republic spokesman Russ Knocke said company representatives plan to appear before Town Council on Oct. 15 to reiterate the company's position.

The hauler sent the town a letter Sept. 26 stating the town overestimated the number of residential pickups, leaving Republic with fewer customers than expected. Republic also said the town was unclear in defining which rental properties it would serve.

The company said if the dispute is not resolved, it would change rates, stop Saturday collections at rental properties, and limit the amount of trash it collects to three 30- to 32-gallon trash bins or a single 96-gallon cart. Any trash picked up over that amount would require a $35 fee, and the pickup must be scheduled ahead of time, according to Republic.

Republic officials would not provide details on rate changes the comany might make.

Riley has said the town has allowed other haulers to pick up on Saturday afternoons only after Republic made rounds. He also said the agreement never guaranteed a certain number of customers, but it does require Republic to pick up all residential trash, whether the property is renter- or owner-occupied.

Town officials have said they cannot terminate the contract with Republic without strong grounds for doing so and that, thus far, the number of complaints does not meet that standard. Last month, Riley told The Island Packet, "There will be lawsuits and other service issues" if the town were to unilaterally end the agreement.

However, Knocke said the company remains open to a "soft termination" of the five-year franchise agreement signed Nov. 18, 2010, and that Republic would not sue if the town choose to "wrap up the agreement."

Knocke added that the company has offered to help the town develop a new request for proposal if it wanted to have a new franchise agreement with a trash hauler. Knocke could not say whether Republic would bid again for such a franchise agreement without knowing first its requirements.

Attempts Tuesday to interview Riley and Laughlin were unsuccessful.

Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.

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