Last month, New Paltz became one-garbage-company town, meaning all customers receiving curbside service had to use County Waste, the company that offered the lowest bid. But the transition has not gone smoothly. Waste Management trucks are still doing their pickups and the company’s customers have not received refunds for payments made for future service. The reason? A company attorney has questioned whether the process by which competition was curtailed in New Paltz was legal, and collections are continuing while the issues are being addressed.
Attorney Patrick Maglieri, representing Waste Management, has called into question a number of facets of the laws passed in New Paltz and the procurement process to select one company to service the residents who wanted a collection service. Many of his arguments hinged upon the word “franchise.” A public hearing was required before issuing a franchise, he maintained. He cited opinions from more than one state official that offering exclusive franchises was not something that could be done at the municipal level.
Town and village attorneys have backed away from the F-word. In a letter to Maglieri dated June 22, Joseph Moriello conceded that “the use of the term ‘franchise’ in the agreement, website and other applications may have contributed to some degree of confusion.” The agreement with County Waste was not “ever intended to be a ‘franchise’” pursuant to the definitions laid out in law, but was instead the right to contract with individuals within the community.
Maglieri disagreed. Reached for comment, he contended that “it’s very clear on its face” that the legislation was intended to be a franchise. He also questions the validity of the licensing of County Waste. His review of the town and village laws passed for that purpose, he said, showed that it would be impossible to issue such a license. No application has ever been published pursuant to those laws, no license fee set, and no insurance requirements established. He acknowledged that some of these issues have since been resolved.
Mayor Tim Rogers pointed out that Waste Management’s bid was the highest one received, and if accepted would have resulted in higher prices for some customers. “Imagine if losers of all our various publicly bid projects just used their muscle to intimidate when they weren’t awarded contracts because they bid too high,” Rogers said.
The Waste Management bid documents are viewable on the town website. They include three full pages of “communities serviced,” which include some where the company is contracted for “disposal only.” In others, collection from residents was the business at hand. Maglieri said he had no personal knowledge of those arrangements, and declined to answer questions about the bid itself.
Violating the law carries a $250 fine, but the verbiage does not make it clear how the fine would be applied. Town supervisor Neil Bettez said that he’s hoping it would be assessed per instance, but expects it’s more likely to be a daily fine. He did not answer questions about how that aspect of the law would be enforced.
At least one other company, SWDS of Rosendale, continues to collect waste in New Paltz in violation of the law. Calls to that company’s owner for comment on the law have never been returned.