Town, hauler should end troubled trash contract

info@islandpacket.comOctober 14, 2013 

Neither the Town of Hilton Head Island nor Republic Waste Services seems satisfied with their nearly 3-year-old franchise agreement.

It's probably time to call it quits on this waste hauling contract.

That's not to say the town should give up on the idea of a single hauler for the island. Despite the focus on continuing complaints about missed pick-ups, the decision to limit the number of waste haulers on Hilton Head was a good one. Recycling volume has quadrupled, and there are far fewer trash trucks on the road. And town officials have said that overall, the number of complaints is small compared with the number of customers.

But Republic claims the town didn't describe accurately the volume of work to be done under the contract and has violated the agreement by allowing other haulers to operate. It is threatening to change rates and stop Saturday pick-ups at rental properties.

Town officials dispute the company's charges, but also say they don't have strong grounds for unilaterally ending the agreement.

The complaint that the town overestimated the number of residential units to be served seems odd. The impression has been that the company was understaffed for the volume of work it had to do, particularly during the busy summer months. If there were fewer customers to serve than expected, you would think staffing would be too high, not too low.

That complaint was in a Sept. 26 letter Republic sent to the town. The company also said the town was unclear in defining which rental properties it would serve.

Town manager Steve Riley says the town allowed other haulers to pick up trash Saturday afternoons, but only after Republic had finished its rounds. That was the right thing to do. Saturday trash pick-up has proved a problem, with Republic picking up trash before many rental units turning over for the week had been cleaned and trash hauled out. That's a big operational flaw in a community with thousands of homes and apartments rented by the week.

A move to stop Saturday pick-ups at rental properties ought to be grounds to end the contract.

Riley also said the franchise agreement never guaranteed a certain number of customers, but did require Republic to pick up all residential trash, whether the property is renter- or owner-occupied.

A Republic spokesman says the company is open to a "soft termination" of the five-year agreement signed in November 2010 and would not sue if the town ended it.

Town officials and the company should try to resolve their issues, but if that can't be done in a relatively short time, the town and Republic should part ways, with precautions taken to ensure that trash and recycling get picked up regularly until a new hauler is in place. The town can revise the franchise agreement based on the experience it now has and bid it out again.

Republic should not be reconsidered for the job. If the hauler and the town can't work out their differences now, that should be the end of it.

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