The Town of Hilton Head Island and Republic Services might part ways a year and a half early, in the wake of continued complaints about problems with trash and recycling pickup.
Council voted unanimously Tuesday to direct town manager Steve Riley to craft an agreement allowing the town and Republic to end their relationship, with precautions taken to ensure trash and recycling is picked up regularly until a new hauler is in place.
Republic attorney Steve Weber asked council to amend the contract to terminate collection services for apartments, condominium regimes and short-rental properties and end Saturday service, beginning Jan. 1. Weber also asked that the company's contract with the town, currently set to expire in 2016, end instead on Sept. 30, 2014.
Republic also wants the town to increase collection fees by 2.25 percent, beginning Jan. 1. Republic's rates were set to increase in March based on fuel prices.
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Republic would continue to provide service to single-family homes after Jan. 1. Apartments, condo regimes and short-term rentals would be allowed to hire a different hauler, provided recycling service is a part of their base price, Riley said.
In the meantime, council would have 10 months to decide how to proceed with providing waste and recycling services.
Republic has offered to help the town revise the franchise agreement based on the experience it has gained. The town would then seek bids from local trash haulers on a new contract.
"The best solution would be for this agreement to run its course and have it working for everybody, and of course that doesn't seem to be happening," Mayor Drew Laughlin said after the meeting Tuesday. "I hope ultimately that we could come up with something that would preserve the good points of this effort."
Council is expected to approved an amended agreement when it meets Nov. 19.
Republic claims the town overestimated the number of residential pickups, leaving Republic with fewer customers than expected, and that the town was unclear in defining the rental properties the company would service. It also argues the town violated the agreement by allowing other haulers to operate.
Town officials dispute those claims.
Of the hundreds of complaints the town received, many have come from rental properties on Saturdays, when vacationers check in and out. Cleaning crews often don't finish until after the trash trucks have gone, according to town officials, meaning trash can pile up for days until the next pickup.
Several condominium regime managers have also complained of poor service and asked the town to either cancel the Republic contract or let them hire their own haulers.
"The ability to hire and fire based on performance makes all the difference in the world," said Rob Moore, administrator at Property Administrators Inc., which manages several regimes on the island.
"I think when you mix single-family in with multi-family, you create problems because they have different service needs," he told council Tuesday. "They're apples and oranges. What works for one doesn't work for the other."
Resident participation in voluntary recycling had been poor before the contract. Since the agreement, recycling volume has quadrupled, there are fewer trash trucks on the road, and collection costs for many residents have gone down, Laughlin said.
Also on Tuesday, council approved an ordinance banning the open burning of lawn debris.
Video: Mayor Drew Laughlin on the trash contract (1:33)
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.