BELLEAIR BLUFFS – The conduct of the city’s long-time refuse service was the subject of a spirited discussion at the City Commission’s Monday workshop. At issue was the recent performance of Waste Management Inc., the city’s waste hauler for the past 20 years.
Commissioner Robert Russo said the company had been the subject of many complaints, and he cited the firm’s alleged banging of dumpsters early in the morning, refusal to pick up certain items and general poor service.
“We are not getting what we are paying for,” Russo concluded.
Commissioner David Shimkus had a mixed reaction to the firm, saying they had done some good things and also some unethical things. Shimkus said that he had personally experienced an instance where a driver for the company had taken money to do a pickup, a practice that is apparently not allowed under Waste Management’s contract with the city.
On the other hand, Mayor Chris Arbutine described the firm as “a quality company.”
“We value relationships and we have had a very good relationship with them,” Arbutine said. Arbutine was joined in his positive assessment by Public Works Administrator Robert David, who praised Waste Management’s responsiveness in crisis situations, and also by City Clerk Debra Sullivan, who said the company had quickly responded to customer concerns.
Several residents also spoke in favor of the waste hauler, with former commissioner Wallace Witham remarking that his experiences led him to believe Russo must be talking about a different company.
Waste Management representative Rick Chancey said that he had personally ridden “every single street with the drivers for the past two months” to try and address areas of concern.
The commission, taking a cue from Mayor Arbutine, decided to forego letting the refuse service contract out for bid, and to continue working with Waste Management, who Commissioner Brett Nelson said was taking the action needed to make things work.
Use of the city’s community center has been mostly limited to commission meetings due to an expensive insurance rider required of all persons and organizations wishing to use the facility, the commission was told. Civic association president Pat Arbutine said, “Nobody is using the center because nobody can afford a rider on the insurance.”
City Clerk Debra Sullivan explained that the Florida League of Cities recommends that each person or organization using the community center has to provide their own liability insurance. City Attorney Richard Alexander said that there is no way that the city can avoid liability in any case.
Mayor Arbutine said that the city will look at how other communities with public facilities are addressing the situation.
“We need to see how we can have a more usable community center,” Arbutine said.