East Baton Rouge community residents were expected to increase their trash, recycling, and garbage collection bills by $12.50 a month beginning March next year, and that rate would then increase by 4% each year beginning in 2024, according to contracts signed by Metro Council approved on Wednesday evening.
Contracts with Republic Services to handle garbage and recycling collection and Richard’s Disposal to handle out-of-cart garbage collection were approved after two hours of debate. Council members were divided on whether to reduce the garbage collection service to once a week or keep it twice a week at a far more expensive rate for the 133,000 households in the community.
The Metro Council will revisit the issue next month when it addresses an ordinance to change rates.
Residents currently pay $23.00 a month for twice-weekly garbage collection, once-a-week recycling, and once-a-week off-truck garbage collection, but prices are bound to rise due to inflation, Fred Raiford, director of transportation and drainage, said .
The higher rate approved by the council will cost residents an additional $150 per year for trash, recycling, and garbage collection, for a total of $426 per year for these services.
Under the new contracts, which begin in March, Republic would no longer dispose of garbage that falls within the remit of New Orleans-based garbage disposal service Richard’s Disposal.
The approved contract is expected to take effect March 1, when the current Republic contract, which was signed in 2018, expires. The contract has a term of seven years with an option to extend it by another year up to three years in 2030.
The treaty passed by an 8-2 vote, with Councilors Rowdy Gaudet and Dwight Hudson voting no, while Councilors Chauna Banks and Cleve Dunn Jr. abstained.
Officials with Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome negotiated with the Republic to reduce the service to a weekly garbage pickup that would have increased monthly rates by $5.50 per month to $28.50. Broome’s administration recommended that the council approve this contract at a lower rate, as residents were concerned they could not afford the much higher rate for twice-weekly collection, but the council did not follow that recommendation.
The council will have the opportunity to adopt a once-a-week contract at the lower price during its second meeting in January, when the rate increases will be treated as an ordinance, city officials said at the meeting.
Councilor Aaron Moak, who voted to allow twice-weekly garbage pickup, said he made that decision based on feedback he received from voters who said they needed the service to stay in place. Moak said he was ready to reconsider that decision in January, pending further feedback.
Other council members who voted to approve the higher rate said feedback from constituents played an important role in their decision.
“I’ve been inundated with people asking to stay twice a week, so I guess they’re willing to pay for that,” Councilor Carolyn Coleman said.
Councilors also pointed to the Republic’s problems with missed garbage pickups as a reason for maintaining twice-weekly collection, claiming it will give residents another opportunity to pick up their garbage that same week if their home is missed. Republic’s once-a-week pickup agreement already required them to service a home within 24 hours of a resident calling to report a missed pickup.
The new contract includes a stipulation that Republic buy 47 trucks equipped with cameras that document every stop along a route to hold drivers accountable, Raiford said. Republic is given two years to get the cameras up and running. The contract also requires Republic to strengthen its customer service team to better respond to complaints from residents, Raiford said.
The contract also makes it easier for the municipality to hold the republic accountable through fines if avoidable problems with collection arise, Raiford said.
In a statement Wednesday night, Broome said she supports the council’s decision to stick with twice-weekly collection despite the increase in monthly fees.
“The increased costs are never desirable, but understandable in the current economic environment,” Broome wrote.
While the garbage and recycling proposal was ultimately awarded to Republic and garbage collection to Richard’s, Jolene Johnson, WastePro’s regional director for government services, said her company was not given the same opportunity to offer its services under the Request for Proposals (RFP) requirements either Service.
Johnson said the borough supported the Republic’s trash and recycling proposal by not dividing the service area into more manageable sections to allow more contractors to submit a proposal and by not offsetting the additional cost of a new contractor to deal with the maintenance of the community to begin.
“We believe the RFP requirements did not allow for a balanced field for all vendors,” she said.
Johnson also claimed WastePro received no response from the city council to its proposal for out-of-cart garbage collection.
Kris Goranson, the borough’s purchasing director, said WastePro had made no official proposal for waste and recycling services, and the company’s proposal for garbage collection would have been more expensive for residents.
“You didn’t bid all three; They said, ‘I’m going to bid on one and when we get established, we’re going to negotiate another and another in good faith,’ Goranson said. “Well I think that’s kind of misleading; They didn’t provide us with a solution for all three.”