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County commissioner wants to reward residents for reporting complaints about Waste Management

County Commission Chairman Bryan Lober is proposing a new way to monitor service issues with Waste Management Inc.'s trash pickup in unincorporated Brevard County.

He wants the county to give customers payments of $20 to $25 when they file legitimate complaints about Waste Management's service.

Lober plans to formally introduce his proposal at the next County Commission meeting, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Brevard County Government Center in Viera.

Lober says he has received more complaints about Waste Management service than about any other issue in recent months.

Waste Management officials have blamed their service issues on the coronavirus pandemic.

They say residential trash and recycling volume have been higher because people are spending more time at home, which slows down completion of routes. Additionally, the company said some Waste Management drivers have been unable to work because they are quarantined because they or a family member contracted COVID-19.

Under its contract with the county, Waste Management pays a $50 penalty — formally called "liquidated damages" — for each legitimate complaint about missed cubside collections. Lober said the cost to the county stemming from his proposal to pay customers who make legitimate complaints about Waste Management could be funded through money the county receives from Waste Management for these penalties.

Lober proposes a $20 payment to residents who call in a legitimate complaint to the county's Solid Waste Management Department and $25 for residents who file a legitimate complaint by filling out an online form, thus saving county staff time in taking the complaint by phone.

Lober also wants county staff to research whether his proposed incentives for customers submitting complaints about Waste Management can be paid retroactively for complaints filed since July 31. Lober said providing customers financial incentives for reporting "service failures" by Waste Management has "the goal of ensuring all problems are reported and addressed, and promised service levels are reached by Waste Management."

Customers who file complaints directly to Waste Management would not be eligible for the $20 or $25 payments, under Lober's proposal.

Collection rate increase His proposal comes at a time that Waste Management begins a new seven-year contract with the county that is resulting in residents of unincorporated Brevard seeing a 39% increase in Waste Management trash collection rates.

The annual bill for trash collection at a single-family home will jump to $194.28 a year, up from the current $139.70 a year. The $54.58-a-year increase takes effect Oct. 1, and will appear as a separate charge on property tax bills that soon will be going out to property owners.

"As if facing admittedly unavoidable increased service fees were not bad enough, over the course of the ongoing pandemic, numerous complaints have been received, and continue to be received, regarding missed trash pickups on the part of Waste Management," Lober wrote in his agenda report to other commissioners on his proposal. Lober said monitoring performance by Waste Management "can be time-consuming and costly" for the county, so providing incentives to customers for reporting issues could "save Brevard County time and money by providing details and possible evidence. These details may save travel time and expenses otherwise incurred in the verification of the incident."

Separately, Lober said he would like to see the county perform a feasibility study of bringing solid waste collection in-house, rather than relying on a contractor like Waste Management, "and I absolutely support allocating funding to accomplish this." Rockledge and Titusville have city-operated trash collection. Brevard's other 14 cities and towns contract with Waste Management or another company for trash collection.

No viable options Waste Management this year was awarded the county contract for serving unincorporated Brevard for the next seven years through a competitive bidding process. 

Lober said Waste Management was the low bidder, and the county had no viable options at the time.

"Bids received were substantially higher than those received the last time the contract went out to bid," Lober said. "The lowest bidder, Waste Management, was negotiated down from their formal bid, but the cost, nevertheless and unavoidably, increased substantially, on a percentage basis, from existing rates. Given that the county had no viable, less-expensive alternative, and trash would otherwise go uncollected, Waste Management was awarded the contract."

Lober said that, "as bids went through the same competitive process as the last time the contract went out to bid, Waste Management has no obligation to justify their rate increase. Despite the high percentage increase, they were the least-expensive option for the county." 

The county said Waste Management initially was proposing a 43% increase in its contract. But a county negotiating committee was able to get Waste Management to decrease the contract from a proposed $19.1 million a year to $18.3 million.

Waste Management was one of three companies to submit bids.

How to complain Residents of unincorporated Brevard receive twice-a-week solid waste collection, once-a-week recycling collection and once-a-week yard waste collection.

As part of its contract with the county, Waste Management faces fines for missed pickups on scheduled pickup days. 

Solid waste collection must be completed by 8 p.m. on designated collection days. Customers whose solid waste has not been collected by 8 p.m. who want to file a complaint, can do so online at http://sites.brevardcounty.us/sct#/ 

Residents with questions or complaints also can contact the Solid Waste Department at 321-633-2042.


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