A conflict between a community in Green Bay South and the region’s Waste Management Authority may appear to have finally ended, but for some parties involved, they still aren’t satisfied.
The town of Lush’s Bight-Beaumont on Long Island has been without garbage collection for the past three weeks. The Green Bay Waste Authority claims the community was in arrears and refused to collect the garbage until the amount owing was paid.
“They’re saying we’re $4000 in arrears, but we say we’re not,” said Long Island Mayor Barbara Colbourne earlier this week. Colbourne says she’s been working on this issue for the past number of weeks, when it comes to the cancellation of garbage collection, however the underlying issue goes back a number of years.
In 2003, when Green Bay Waste Authority was founded, the community on Long Island was approached with a proposal that would see them become part of the Regional Waste Authority, along with the rest of the communities in the area.
However, the cost proposed to council at the time was too high, says Colbourne.
“The council of the day felt that they couldn’t meet the cost of garbage collection that Green Bay Waste Authority was proposing,” she told the Nor’wester. Minutes from a meeting of council on January 13, 2003, confirm that the cost proposed at the time was just over $9000 a year, billed monthly at a cost of $770. That didn’t include ferry costs, which the minutes state was also a concern for council at the time.
In that 2003 meeting, the representative for Green Bay Waste Authority Tracey Lynn Boutilier, made a proposal.
Boutilier, who was the Waste Management Coordinator at the time, suggested garbage pick-up during the winter for Long Island would be bi-weekly, in order to reduce costs for the town.
According to Mayor Colbourne, that proposal ended up being the agreement between the town and Green Bay Waste Authority. According to the Mayor, the agreement was acknowledged in a formal letter from Boutilier on June 20 of that year.
“The GBWA (Green Bay Waste Authority) agrees to collect the regular household waste from residents of Long Island … for 35 weeks (per year)” states the letter.
“That’s what we went with,” said Colbourne. “Long Island had their garbage collected 35 weeks a year, and we paid for 35 weeks a year.”
While other communities in the region received service 52 weeks a year, and paid accordingly.
However, in 2010, things changed.
“There were some changes in staff on both ends,” said Colbourne. “Somehow, we ended up being charged for the full 52 weeks, yet, our service level stayed where it was, and we still only got garbage picked up 35 weeks a year.”
The error went unnoticed until Green Bay Waste Authority raised their rates in March 2013. After the town reviewed their bill, they realized what had been happening. The contacted Green Bay Waste.
“We explained the situation and had a meeting with them, but they decided that they were going to keep charging us the full amount.”
In minutes from May, 2013, for the Green Bay Waste Authority, the issue was brought up. A motion was adopted, which solidified what Colbourne explained.
“Be it resolved that the collection schedule and fees for Lushes Bight – Beaumont remain the same,” read the motion, which was passed unanimously.
However, the issue kept coming up.
In the next meeting on June 12, the Waste Authority tabled a letter from the town noting their refusal to continue paying the full amount. The town said it would only pay for the service it received from now on.
The waste authority took umbrage with the decision, as noted in their minutes.
“The Council of Lushes Bight – Beaumont will only pay for the weeks that garbage is collected, until they are satisfied that this issue has been resolved. A discussion was had by the Board where, at which time, it was stated once again that the garbage fees are based on a yearly fee, not a weekly fee. If Lushes Bight – Beaumont decides not to pay their garbage collection fees then the Board will have to make a decision in the upcoming meetings has (sic) to what repercussions of non-payment will be.”
After a summer hiatus, the Waste Authority met again in November, 2013, following a meeting with Municipal Affairs regarding the issue with Long Island.
According to the minutes of that date Frank Huxter told Green Bay Waste Authority it wasn’t right to penalize a town in their region by charging them for a service, and not delivering the full service.
However the board was unwavering. They decided to continue charging 52 weeks and collecting 35 weeks.
Long Island, however, continued to only pay for the garbage collection services they were receiving, and never paid the full invoices for 52 week’s service.
In February, the issue was addressed regarding Long Island’s arrears.
Referring to the 2003 agreement between Green Bay Waste Authority and Long Island, staff and board members reviewed their minutes to determine how the agreement was reached.
“There has never been a motion made by the Board of Directors here at Green Bay Waste approving this agreement,” the minutes said, referring to the proposal accepted by the town in 2003 to only pay for services received for 35 weeks. “This agreement was done by a former coordinator and not taken to the Board for approval, so really there was no legally binding agreement in place,” the Waste Authority concluded. The board decided to continue its billing and to monitor Long Island’s account for arrears.
Yet again, at the next meeting in March, the issue resurfaced again and a motion was made to formally inform the town of the situation via a letter.
“Be it resolved that a letter would be written and sent to the Town of Long Island stating that they would have one month to either pay the arrears in full or contact the office to make payment arrangements,” the motion stated. “The letter that had previously been sent to Long Island regarding payment options for Long Island by the former coordinator was not legally binding since no Board of Directors had ever approved it.”
That letter that supposedly wasn’t legally binding, says Barbara Colbourne, is the one the town received in 2003.
When contacted earlier this week, the Mayor says the Waste Authority is bullying the town.
“We feel like we’re being bullied because we were told one thing, and they never held up to their end of the agreement,” she said. “It feels like they’ve got all the directors up there in the room, sitting around the table, and bullying little Long Island into paying for something we shouldn’t have to pay.”
Colbourne says the town had sought legal advice and, as a result of their alleged arrears, they were at that point without garbage collection for three weeks.
On Monday night Colbourne and her council met again to discuss the issue. During that meeting, she says, they were contacted by Green Bay Waste Authority Chairperson, Dennis Vincent.
“He told us they would be resuming our garbage collection this week,” she said. “Apparently they’ve received their own legal advice and it turns out the original letter is binding after all, and they have to abide by the original agreement.”
Colbourne says she didn’t have a lengthy discussion with Vincent, and the issue of arrears didn’t come up. However, for the council on Long Island, they feel the book isn’t closed on the issue yet.
“Green Bay Waste is only offering to collect our garbage for 52 weeks and to continue charging us for 52 weeks,” she said. “We don’t want that – we want what was originally agreed, and that’s collection and payment for 35 weeks a year.”
Colbourne says the town is also asking for their overpayment to be reimbursed that they paid out over the three years.
“We paid 17 weeks too much for about three years,” she said. “I’m not sure exactly how much we overpaid, but whatever it is, we want it back, because we shouldn’t have been paying it.”
Colbourne says the whole ordeal was dragged out, and caused the town to seek the services of a lawyer. Even though Green Bay Waste has resumed collection of their waste, she says, the issue still isn’t over.
“We’re still not done with this, because there’s still some things that need to be resolved,” she said. “We were treated unfairly … through all this, and it isn’t right to just let it wash away like nothing happened.”
Colbourne wouldn’t comment on whether or not the town would consider legal action against the Waste Authority if an agreement couldn’t be reached, but she did confirm they intend to continue to retain the lawyer.
“We’re going to hang on for a bit yet, in case something else comes up later on.”
When contacted for this story, Green Bay Waste Authority Chairperson, Dennis Vincent, was unavailable to provide comment before deadline.