Houston-based Waste Management Inc. confirmed Thursday its tipping fee for private citizens at Iris Glen Environmental Landfill did increase Sept. 1 due to a rise in operational costs and the city was given proper notice as required by the two-party contract.
The fee rose from a minimum of one-half ton and a roughly $15 fee to a two-ton, $83 minimum, causing some alarm among a few Johnson City residents as well as the city, which continues to double check the 1992 agreement to see if everything is on the up and up.
The Johnson City Press has reviewed the contract, and it appears Waste Management is playing by the book.
“The rate for private citizens, which falls under the ‘non-member’ status for tipping fees, that come to Iris Glen has been adjusted,” Ken Haldin, Waste Management’s Southern Group spokesman, said Thursday from Atlanta. “It became effective Sept. 1 and is consistent with similar adjustments made in the Tennessee area.”
On Sept. 29, the Press received calls from several residents who said they had been surprised by the rate hike. That same day, Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said an attorney representing Johnson City was researching the matter to see if the increase was legal and that he would have to wait to comment until the attorney issued an opinion.
Pindzola, who confirmed the rate increase, said there is cause for concern, because not only is the change causing a back-up at the landfill, it also is causing Johnson City residents to dump materials into commercial dumpsters, which has upset those paying for their exclusive use.
“The rate reflects a higher cost of doing business, and economic factors,” Haldrin said. “The new rate remains competitive with alternative disposal options. The agreement was signed in 1992, and operations began in 1994. The agreement has been in place for 19 years and terms allow Waste Management to make the adjustment.”
Late Wednesday, Pindzola reiterated the city’s position.
“Currently, our attorneys are reviewing the contract to ensure the contract intent is being followed per this issue,” he said. “They will be corresponding with Waste Management in the near future to bring resolution to the issue.”
The agreement states that the company is entitled to an “automatic increase” in the tipping fee should state or federal regulations cause operating costs to go up. Whether that’s the case at this time in unclear.
Waste Management also can petition the city for a tipping fee increase to cover “unforeseen and unusual increases.” In 2009, the fourth and latest amendment to the agreement arose from the unforeseen jump in oil and gasoline costs.
The company also refigures its rates each year using a formula that includes the consumer price index.
Should the city disagree with the company’s increase, it can seek a settlement by arbitration through Washington County Chancery Court.
Waste Management is the largest provider of waste management services in North America. To learn more about the company, visit www.wm.com or www.thinkgreen.com.
For Iris Glen rate information, call 926-8375.