Mashpee Selectmen Reject Latest Price Increase for Waste Removal

New Bedford Waste Services General Manager speaks before the Mashpee Board of Selectmen on November 4.

MASHPEE – The Mashpee Board of Selectmen has rejected a price increase for solid waste removal and authorized the town manager to explore other options.

New Bedford Waste Services sent a letter to Town Manager Rodney Collins on November 21 to notify the town that it would be implementing a price increase on January 1 under an Uncontrollable Circumstances clause of the current contract.

The town entered into a 10-year agreement with the company for the disposal of solid waste in 2015.

NBWS is requesting an increase in the tipping fee to $93.75 per ton for 2020. The current tip fee for 2019 is $59.23 per ton and that price was scheduled to increase to $60.71 for 2020.

NBWS said in the letter that it would be adding a surcharge of $33.04 beginning January for each ton of solid waste removed from the transfer station bringing the total cost per ton to $93.75.

General Manager Michael Camara notified the town of a tip fee increase in August. An original letter said the tip fee cost would increase to $75 per ton beginning in October of this year.

The increase was proposed under the “force majeure” provision of the contract because of poor recycling markets and decreasing options for end disposal locations in Massachusetts.

The town rejected that proposed increase in September and Camara attended a  selectmen’s meeting on November 4 to discuss the current market situation.

The board and Camara had agreed to negotiate an amendment to the agreement during that November 4 session.

“I’m just wondering what the hell is going on with this guy?” said Town Manager Rodney Collins during the selectmen’s meeting Monday night. “I don’t think he knows what he wants.”

Collins strongly recommended the board reject the price increase.

Selectman Thomas O’Hara would like to try negotiating with the company again.

“I think that [Camara’s] in trouble. I think the market has put him in a situation where he can’t survive without an adjustment,” O’Hara said.

“I think the last offer and the number he is looking for doesn’t make sense. I think if you could reach out to him and come up with something reasonable in between it is better than us going out to bid.”

Selectmen chair Andrew Gottlieb said he has no interest in negotiating with NBWS.

“We have a contract with terms associated with it and I’d like him to live with it,” Gottlieb said. “He signed a contract that is disadvantageous to him. That is his problem.”

Gottlieb said he did not think the company would accept a reverse surcharge if the solid waste removal and recycling markets were strong and the town was seeking a reverse surcharge.

“His practice of writing these unilateral demand letters is not a negotiation and we made it pretty clear to him last time that if he wanted to talk to us about his situation he ought to have a conversation with [the town manager.] The response was a letter increasing the fee by 50 percent.”

Gottlieb said he does not want to send Collins to renegotiate the price and contract.

“I don’t want to engage him in a conversation with counsel about adhering to the terms and conditions of the contract or come back to us with an option to hire somebody else.”

Assistant Town Manager Wayne Taylor and Department of Public Works Director Catherine Laurent met with Camara and Jerry Dugan from NBWS on November 21.

“It was clear there was no negotiation going on,” Taylor said. “He just came in and said this is what the new price is going to be. He said the new number is $93.75.”

Laurent said that NBWS was proposing to bale solid waste for shipment by truck out of state and is currently negotiating contracts with disposal facilities in several states.

“He’s just looking to cover his costs,” Laurent said.

Laurent said Camara said the price of $93.75 would be for 2020 and that there is a possibly that price could increase due to possible fee increases from changes in the law.

The board then voted unanimously to reject the price increase from NBWS and authorize Collins to develop other options in case an agreement can not be reached with the company.

Camara said during the board’s meeting on November 4 that the price increase is due to diminishing capacity for disposal within the state and a reduction of overseas recycling markets.

He said the issues are occurring due to a policy adopted by the state about two decades ago that banned the expansion of waste-to-energy facilities. The state’s goal was to increase recycling.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s solid waste master plan in 2000 included a goal of recycling 46 percent of solid waste. The current rate, according to NBWS is around 23 percent.

There was also a goal to reduce solid waste by 90 percent through recycling by 2050.

ABC Disposal Services Inc., which is the parent company of New Bedford Waste Services, planned to handle recycling and municipal solid waste at a Zero Waste Facility it constructed in Rochester.

The process would have included creating fuel briquettes with materials that could not be recycled.

Those briquettes would have been sold to biomass plants in New Hampshire, but the state discontinued issuing renewable energy credits causing the plants to shut down.

China also decided a few years ago that it no longer wanted to import recycled materials and are at 25-year lows.

Camara said the value of recycled materials has drastically decreased over the past few decades. The price of cardboard at one point was up to over $300 per ton about 15 years ago, according to Camara, and is now down to about $30 per ton.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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