Roscoe approves Waste Management contract: "the cheapest, lowest number we got"

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Roscoe Village Administrator Scott Sanders said he regretted Roscoe residents had learned of the Waste Management increase when they got a bill.

The Village of Roscoe voted 4-2 to approve a new five-year contract with Waste Management of Illinois (WM)  on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. As we reported, it will increase garbage fees from $15.00 a month to $25.50 a month. This is the first increase since 2018 and it applies only to Village of Roscoe residents. At the Nov. 15 meeting, trustees had taken a straw poll in favor of a WM proposal that would include one bulk item per week, collection of recyclable materials every other week, and seasonal collection of yard waste.



Trustees Justin Plock, Michael Dunn, Anthony Keene, and Stacey Mallicoat voted in favor of the final contract. Trustees Sue Petty and Carol Gustafson voted against it. Petty told us that she voted No because of how the information was communicated to the public by the Village administration. "It was poorly handled... Our constituency deserves transparency."

Three board members participated remotely: Mark Szula, Carol Gustafson, and Anthony Keene.

At the beginning of the meeting, Village Administrator Scott Sanders expressed regret for how the change had been communicated. After explaining how low the previously contracted rates were, he said, "I wish we'd done more throughout the year to make everyone aware" that they were about to get higher rates. "We didn't know what that would be but we knew the days of $15 a month were gone..."



Sanders regretted that "the way a lot of people found out about this was a bill," which arrived sooner than Sanders thought it would. "Absolutely in hindsight I think we would have done the community a service to even make them aware that an increase was coming and perhaps we should have identified the dollar value. Nevertheless, I don't think it was ever going to be well-received news at any time it was disseminated. If we could get a cheaper price, we would have passed that on... this is the cheapest, lowest number we got."

But Sanders said he wasn't sure that anyone "fully appreciated how strong a contract it was" when the previous $15 a month flat rate long term contract was signed in 2017. During the past five years, while the Village's rates stayed the same, industry costs have increased greatly, because of higher fuel costs but especially because China stopped accepting recycled material from the United States. A few times, WM pleaded the Village to allow them to charge more, but "we held firm. We never adjusted it," said Sanders.

In unincorporated Roscoe Township, outside the Village boundaries, most residents are already paying more than $15.00 a month, and some are paying more than $25.50 a month.

Even Lentell's Disposal is raising their rates from $16 to $30 a month. Since Lentell's services are only available in unincorporated areas, Village Administrator Scott Sanders found it "curious" that we called them "a local favorite" in our previous article. But they aren't taking new customers and didn't submit a bid to the Village of Roscoe or apparently to any other municipality. However, being the public servant that he is, Sanders tried to call them anyway, but says they never answered their phone. He told the meeting that he doesn't want our readers to get "the impression that [the Village] missed out on someone."



The options the trustees considered

  • Option 1-Full Service Solid Waste Program (current Village solid waste program)
    • Waste Management $29.30
    • Rock River Disposal $27.50 / Senior Rate $26.00
  • Option 2-Full Service Waste Program (w/ every other week recycling pickup)
    • Waste Management $25.50
    • Rock River Disposal $26.90 / Senior Rate $25.40
  • Option 3-Solid Waste Program (w/ every other week recycling & yard waste add on
    • Waste Management $20.35 $150.00-yard waste
    • Rock River Disposal $25.75 / Senior Rate $24.25 $185.00-yard waste
  • Option 4-Solid Waste Program (w/ every other week recycling, yard waste add on, bulk waste per use)
    • Waste Management $20.35 / $150.00 Yard Waste / $20.00 per bulk item
    • Rock River Disposal $24.50 / Senior $23.00 / $185.00-yard waste / $30 per bulk item
  • Waste Management Alternate Option 1-Solid Waste Program (w/ weekly recycling and yard waste add on) $23.85 / $150.00-yard waste
  • Rock River Disposal Alternate Option 1-10 Year Term Full Service Solid Waste Program
    (current Village solid waste program) $25.00/ $23.50 Senior
  • Rock River Disposal Alternate Option 2-10 Year Term Solid Waste Program (w/ weekly recycling and yard waste add on) $24.00 / $22.50 senior

During the public comment section of the meeting, Michael Sima was the first to speak. Sima is running for Village Board in April. He thanked Scott Sanders for his transparency, but added, "I do believe we could have used that in November." He said what he was interested in was "the process... how can we improve the process of communication within our constituency and the board."

Sima said, "Yes, we're frustrated by the rate increases but we are equally disappointed in how the selection process has proceeded." He was concerned that the trustees at the Nov. 15 board meeting had looked over the details on each option, but residents didn't know those details until last month's board meeting minutes [PDF] were posted online on Dec. 19, only "a day before today's vote," but almost two weeks after the minutes were approved by the Village Board at the Dec 6 meeting. Meeting agendas are usually posted outside Village Hall the Friday before the meeting, and posted on the village website the Monday before.

Michael Sima attended the meeting over Zoom, as did Anthony Keene. But the trustees referred to each option by number and, unlike Keene, residents on Zoom didn't have the handouts with the numbers that were being discussed. 

Our reporter Jean Seegers was one of the few Roscoe residents who had attended the Nov. 15 meeting, and perhaps the only one who attended in person. Though her Nov. 23 story reported the cost would increase to $25.50 per month, most residents didn't hear about it until they got their bill in December.



Greater transparency in the near future

Later in the evening, during the Committee of the Whole meeting, Village President Mark Szula proposed that the Village website should post video recordings of each meeting, since they are recorded through Zoom. He said that should be done within seven days after each meeting. The board agreed unanimously to bring up the subject at the next full board meeting.

Rockton-Roscoe News also spoke with Village Attorney Josef Kurlinkus after the meeting about giving us access before each meeting to the packet of documents and resolutions the board will be considering. Kurlinkus supported the idea and said he would talk with the Village's FOIA officer Ann Hanson about it. Hanson agreed with us that details need to be worked out. For example, some documents only arrive at the last minute (staff puts copies at each trustee's seat just before the meeting) and other documents should not be public, such as personnel matters.


Sima also objected to the unofficial decision that had led to the contract, "A straw poll is not a vote... the residents of Roscoe should not have decisions made by a straw poll." A Village news release issued on Dec. 19 said, "The Board voted to authorize awarding the franchise agreement to Waste Management." Sima objected to that language, saying that a straw poll "should not have authorized the Village to enter into an agreement with Waste Management, as the press release states. If the board authorized an agreement on November 15, I don't understand why there's a vote today - it's a done deal." Sima asked the board to delay the vote until the next meeting so that residents can review the options. "If you go ahead and vote Yes, you're saying you're okay with the straw poll process."

Later in the meeting, Village Attorney Josef Kurlinkus was asked to give his legal opinion, and he stated, "A straw poll is just to get the idea of which direction the board's going for. But it is true, absolutely true, that the Board needs to take formal votes, take final action, and it's true there's not an approved contract as of right now... A straw poll is not a binding vote, it is not a final action of the board... Until the vote is done tonight, there's not a final action of the board."

However, Sanders and Kurlinkus still believe that the board's Nov. 15 approval of Waste Management Option 2 gave them the authority to hammer out the contract details with WM so the trustees could finally vote on Dec. 20. The item did not appear on the Dec. 6 agenda.

As we reported, residents have already received bills from WM, dated before the contract was approved on Dec. 20, with charges of $25.50 a month, payable on receipt.  Initial reports called them "letters." The new rates are also visible when customers log into their online accounts.

We have contacted Lisa Disbrow, a WM spokesperson, to ask why they sent out bills with new rates before the contract was approved. We have not received a response yet. On the other hand, since the contract was expiring at the end of the year, maybe they couldn't have send out bills with the old rates either.

What the plan involves

The Waste Management Option 2 approved by the trustees includes trash pickup each week, recycling pickup every two weeks, and one bulk item each week. WM representatives said if you have a bulk item that's heavier than 50 pounds, you should call WM in advance so they can bring a boom truck. There is no extra charge for bulk item pickup, except for appliances, which are $50 in advance. The only other extra fees are a $3 bounced check fee, a $5 late fee, and $55 or $65 to reinstate service.

WM will distribute new, larger 96-gallon totes in mid-January and then pick up the old ones later. Residents can continue the older, smaller, 35-gallon totes if they like. They just can't get the older, smaller rates.

Here's the complete meeting, posted to our YouTube channel:

<!-- EMBEDDED YOUTUBE URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hr3aHvteNq4 -->

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