C&C seeking sanitation contract to be rebid

Published 10:00 am Saturday, May 20, 2023

The Troup County Commission is preparing to turn sanitation services over to Martin Environmental on July 1, but if C&C Sanitation has its way, the entire process will be re-bid. Despite the county awarding Martin an exclusive contract and updating its ordinance to add further clarification regarding the inclusion of recycling, C&C is still planning to move forward with its one-bin recycling program.

When the bids for the sanitation contract were publicly released on April 4, many assumed that C&C would have bid on the contract, including county officials. However, C&C did not submit a bid.

Three companies, AmWaste, out of West Point; Martin Environmental Services, out of Dothan, Alabama; and Red Oak Sanitation & Recycling, out of Cumming; submitted bids for the exclusive franchise contract. Ultimately, the commission voted 3-2 in favor of awarding Martin the contract on April 18.

At the time, county staff indicated that C&C did not bid because the company did not have enough trucks to adequately provide the service, and they didn’t think they were going to be able to purchase enough in time. Attorneys for C&C later confirmed that is the case.

C&C owner Lisa Durden said County Manager Eric Mosley had notified her in April 2022 via text message that the county was likely going to seek bids for the sanitation service.

“When we got this [information], we ordered our trucks, which started slowly coming in. We said that at every board meeting. He [later] sent me a text and said, ‘I’m shocked you didn’t bid,’” Durden said.

“Our position is we did not put a bid in, under this proposal, because at that time we didn’t have sufficient trucks and equipment to do it. But we went and started purchasing, trying to arrange for them, but we weren’t going to have them in time,” said Neal Callahan, an attorney representing C&C.

Callahan said C&C looked to see if the county was going to make their trucks available for sale or lease, but they never appeared on a government sales site.

“When Martin Environmental got the bid and got the franchise agreement, they also leased the trucks from the county. We never knew that was an option. We absolutely would have put in a bid if we knew that was an option,” Callahan said.

C&C contends that they tried to talk to Mosley, but he said he could not talk to them during the bid process, so they couldn’t discuss potentially purchasing or leasing the county’s trucks.

“I tried to call Eric, and he told me he couldn’t take my call,” Durden said.

“We believe that he must have talked with Martin Environmental, otherwise, they wouldn’t have known about it, so Martin Environmental had an unfair advantage over us in the bid proposal,” Callahan said.

The LaGrange Daily News asked for an interview with County Manager Eric Mosley for this story. Mosley asked the LDN to send questions via email, and the newspaper sent him nine questions. Mosley reviewed the questions and declined an interview.

In previous meetings, Mosley said the county negotiated leasing equipment with Martin after the bid was accepted, which helped lower the monthly rate from $31.50 for curbside trash pickup to $29.90 per month.

Callahan said he has since filed an open record request asking for all communication between the county manager’s office, the commissioners and any of the three businesses that submitted bids. He said he was told the request was too ambiguous and to try to limit the scope. He said he was later told it would be June 15 before the county would be able to fulfill the request.

A May 15 letter Callahan provided the LDN from County Attorney Mark DeGennaro responding to the open record request does confirm that date.

“Text messages are not maintained on any central database and would have to be individually searched on phones, printed out and reviewed and it would take at least until June 15, 2023 to complete gathering and reviewing any responsive text messages for the same period,” the letter reads.

Callahan also believes the county could be retaliating against C&C because of the open records request.

“We sent that request on April 15. We’ve had a transfer station for over three years. The county has been using it to the tune of about $270,000 a year. The county had no problem with it. Suddenly on April 15, when I sent my open records request asking for Eric Mosley’s texts, three days later, they stopped using our transfer station altogether. They started taking the trash to Meriwether County Turkey Run,” Callahan claimed.

When discussing this story, County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews said his comment is that the county is moving forward with plans for Martin Environment to take over sanitation on July 1.

 

The EPD Investigation

Callahan said C&C is also investigating the identity of the person who called the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to make a complaint that they didn’t have a permit for their transfer station. Callahan said the EPD investigated the complaint and found them to be permitted and in complete compliance.

An EPD report supplied by Callahan confirmed that C&C has been operating under an active permit (Permit No. PBR-141-11TS) since 2004. No discrepancies or violations were documented during the inspection.

When the LDN initially attempted to verify C&C’s permit status via their public inquiry portal, the permit was not found. Keith Stevens, Manager of the Georgia EPD Solid Waste Permitting Unit, said their electronic records go from PBR-141-10 to PBR-141-12, and the record for 11 did not show up. It was later determined to be a data input error and C&C’s permit was verified.

 

A switch to recycling

After the county’s decision to award the contract to Martin, C&C sent out notices to its customers indicating that they could keep their service with C&C because they were switching to a one-bin recycling system by partnering with RePower South. The company believes this is a service not covered under the county’s exclusive contract with Martin.

In the original sanitation ordinance change approved on April 13, the definition of solid waste included recycling. The county modified the ordinance on May 2 to further clarify that the exclusive franchise agreement awarded to Martin includes recycling.

C&C contends that under the ordinance that rural residents can’t recycle.

“The people of unincorporated Troup County can’t do recycling because, under the law that was passed, it says that solid waste, which is recyclables, have to go to a county approved landfill or transfer station or convenience center or it has to be picked up by Martin Environmental. Therefore, the people of unincorporated Troup County can’t do recycling,” Callahan said.

Callahan also contended that means the residents can’t take recycling to the LaGrange Recycling Center.

Martin CEO Brandon Hurst said Thursday that the convenience centers will have cardboard recycling at no cost. He also noted that Martin does not take issue with residents taking their recycling to the LaGrange Recycling Center.

 

The county’s response

Troup County sent out a notification to local sanitation companies this week summarizing the new ordinance and what it prohibits and allows.

Per the letter, the new Troup County Solid Waste Ordinance does the following:

4 Does not require a franchise for the collection and transportation of commercial solid waste – i.e., waste generated upon and collected from non-residential premises.

4 Does regulate all collection, transportation and disposal of all residential solid waste (including recyclable materials) within unincorporated Troup County.

4Prohibits the collection from county residents and transportation of all residential solid waste, which includes, among other things, garbage, and recyclable materials, for disposal, recycling or processing unless those activities are done pursuant to a valid franchise agreement.

4Provides that it is unlawful for any person to violate or fail to comply with the ordinance and specifies penalties for violation, including by citation to the Troup County Magistrate Court with violation(s) publishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 or imprisonment for 60 days or both.

 

C&C moving forward

C&C said it still plans to move forward with its one-bin recycling plan, but it believes this situation may end up in court.

“It’s probably going to be up to a judge. … If a lawsuit is filed.” Callahan said.

“It wouldn’t be a lawsuit as much, it’d be an injunction to stop the enforcement of that and a declaratory judgment that the bidding process was done improperly and needs to be reopened.”

Callahan said it’s also important that the county fulfill its open record request in a timely manner so that C&C can have all of the information required.

Durden said C&C would need approximately 2,500 customers to use its one-bin recycling service in order to have a viable business moving forward in Troup County. She said the company was near that number already.

C&C also was recently awarded the sanitation contract for the cities of Valley, Alabama and Lanett, Alabama.

The LDN asked C&C if the process was bid back out, if there was any scenario where they’d believe the resolution fair, if C&C was not selected as the exclusive sanitation provider for Troup County. Even if the process is rebid, the commission would still be able to pick another provider.

“We wouldn’t feel like we were treated fairly,” Callahan said, but we would feel like we were treated lawfully.”