The same day Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration announced an expansion of the city’s new single-stream recycling program, the Mobile City Council once again delayed a vote to approve two contracts related to it.
The contracts would allow the processing of recyclables and equipment rentals from Emerald Coast Utilities Authority for $125,000 and $900,000, respectively over the next three years.
The delay came initially at the behest of the administration, who wanted to give the city’s Solid Waste Authority an opportunity to approve the contracts at a regular meeting Wednesday.
Councilman John Williams said he was prepared to vote on the contracts Tuesday, even before the Authority had a chance to decide, because his appointee to the board, Chairman Pete Riehm, had already made up his mind.
When Williams was told by Council President Gina Gregory the delay came at the request of the administration, Stimpson said that if the council was to “vote in the affirmative, we will withdraw our request.”
Complicating the issue for the Authority is the outcome of a lawsuit the Waste Management Mobile Bay Environmental Center brought against the board two years ago. A federal jury awarded the manager of the city’s Chastang landfill a multi-million dollar judgement over breach of contract complaints stemming, in part, from the diversion of yard debris to a different landfill.
At a meeting in May, many of the concerns were alleviated when both sides agreed to discuss the possibility of the city paying WM a diversion rate for the yard debris in question, as well as the recycling program.
At the time, city attorney Ricardo Woods said paying a diversion fee to the disposal company would be cheaper than hauling debris to Chastang.
Jaime Betbeze, an attorney for WM, said Tuesday there hasn’t been much movement in these negotiations and couldn’t say if there’d be a vote a week from Tuesday. At the time, Lagniappe reported that the Authority had supported the two recycling contracts.
Riehm said that at the time of the special meeting, the Authority had asked the city to indemnify it from any future legal action. According to Riehm, the city said that wasn’t possible, so the board has instead focused on a clause that says WM should process out any recyclables and put the revenue into community projects.
While it’s not “Iron-clad,” Riehm said the provision does seem to separate recyclables from yard debris, making the prospect of a lawsuit based on the recycling contracts less likely. Riehm said he and some other members are comfortable moving forward now and the second vote would only take place to make sure other members are on board.
Despite the delay, Stimpson’s office announced the opening of a new recycling collection location at the Western Administrative Complex near Langan Park. This new single-stream location, which allows for the dumping of all recyclables into a single bin, joins the city’s recycling center on Government Street.
The western location will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
“In the past, the City has simply not devoted enough resources or attention to recycling, but that is all about to change,” Stimpson said in a statement. “Our ultimate goal is to create a more robust recycling program while eliminating litter throughout our City. When recycling is more convenient and less confusing, more people recycle and people who recycle are less tolerant of litter.”
In other business, former District 2 City Councilman William Carroll had planned to speak to the council about a rash of break-ins near his home in the Oakleigh Garden District. He was not allowed to speak because he didn’t sign up in time to discuss an item that wasn’t on the agenda.
Carroll told Lagniappe after the meeting that his house and two neighbors’ houses had been burglarized recently and he wanted to talk to the administration and Executive Director of Public Safety James Barber about the situation.
Carroll said the current rash of burglaries has been going on for about three months, but the neighborhood deals with a lot of lesser crimes as well.
“It’s apparent that crime is up,” Carroll said. “It’s apparent.”
When asked about the issues in Carroll’s neighborhood by Williams, Barber said it was a “legitimate issue.” Carroll claims he was told by Barber that it would be addressed.