St. John approves garbage contractor, explores penalty options for outgoing Progressive Waste

Published 12:11 am Saturday, July 16, 2016

EDGARD — Garbage contractor Progressive Waste Solutions will no longer provide curbside waste pickup in St. John the Baptist Parish after July 30.

Progressive will be replaced by Metro Service Group, which will take over effective Aug. 1.

Progressive has faced increased scrutiny in recent months for not picking up trash on dates set forth in its contract with the parish.

Councilwoman at Large Jaclyn Hotard said she has been extremely disappointed in Progressive’s service for some time.

“Garbage pickup is a basic service, it is something that the residents deserve and expect,” Hotard said.

“When something as basic as garbage doesn’t work, it reflects poorly on all of us. We were lucky to be in a situation we were in where the contract was expiring.”

Rather than taking the garbage contractor to court to void the contract, the parish will be able to move seamlessly to another provider, officials said.

Metro Service Group, LLC received the highest ranking of the six proposals received and scored by a Source Selection Committee, according to St. John Communications Director Baileigh Rebowe Helm.

As the contract details are finalized, information regarding pick up schedules, contact information and the office location will be released, Helm said, adding the company will maintain a 24-hour phone line dedicated to complaints and also an office within the Parish.

Progressive’s contract is worth an estimated $140,000 per month to serve upwards of 11,000 households in the parish.

Hotard said she began receiving reports months ago that Progressive left trash on the roadside for up to five days without making a pickup.

“People just had garbage all over the streets,” Hotard said.

St. John’s waste management contract with the company includes a clause allowing for a $100 penalty per day. However, it is unclear if instances of trash not being picked up were properly documented so as to allow the parish to take action against Progressive.

With the multitude of calls the parish received about trash not being picked up, District 6 Councilman Larry Snyder said a hefty fine could be in order.

“If we had someone policing this, they would have been paying us money,” Snyder said.

During Tuesday’s St. John the Baptist Parish Council meeting, Hotard passed a motion asking Parish President Natalie Robottom to convene legal counsel to assess the situation to see if the parish may be able to enforce penalties that could potentially reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to anecdotal accounts.

Hotard said while the situation is unfortunate, parish officials are lucky they were at the end of the contract period when Progressive failed to fulfill its duties.

“They are done, but I won’t say they are off the hook,” Hotard said. “That was the motion (Tuesday). The motion was to instruct administration to get with legal and see if we had a remedy as far as withholding payments.”

With only two weeks left in their five-year contract, the maximum penalty at this point would likely be limited to the last month’s payment.

“We don’t have the data from the past to show breach of contract,“ Snyder said. “What can we do? You just look at it from this point forward.”

To avoid a similar situation with the new garbage contractor, Metro Service Group Inc., Hotard said the waste removal contract has been updated to include more specific mechanisms to enforce penalties. In addition, Metro Service Group Inc. will maintain a website where parish residents can lodge complaints against the contractor.

Snyder said he would like to see more power in the hands of the parish when it comes to enforcing penalties against waste removal providers.

“I don’t like the fact that they are going to be policing themselves — these new contractors — because they have to put everything in the computer,” Snyder said.

“I don’t like that part of it, but that is just the way it is right now. But I think (their) CEO is on top of it and I think she will do a decent job of making sure that every day that what gets put into that website is what is supposed to be there.”

But in the end Snyder anticipates any service will be an upgrade over that provided by Progressive.

“Progressive is just a gone pecan,” Snyder said. “Someone brought that to my attention today that companies like that are owned by big conglomerates and they want to make a little money and just sell and run.”

— By Kyle Barnett