The gist: Republic Services, already in the hot seat over complaints of shoddy service, has yet to pay a $75,000 fine levied against the trash collector by Lafayette Consolidated Government more than a year ago.
In July, LCG Environmental Codes Supervisor Russell Bourg told The Current that he had prepared paperwork early last year for a $75,000 fine after Republic fell below what is referred to in its contract with LCG as an average monthly service effectiveness rate, or AMSER. Per that contract, the Arizona-based company must meet a collection rate of 99.75% each quarter; any time it falls below that rate, it is subject to the hefty fine.
During the first quarter of 2018, LCG calculated the AMSER to be 99.62%, and in June 2018 Public Works Director Mark Dubroc officially notified Republic Services General Manager Steve Sytsma of the deficiency and resulting fine via fax and overnight delivery. A separate June letter from Environmental Quality Manager Bess Foret provided documentation of the records LCG used to calculate the deficiency rate.
Dubroc’s letter also reminded the company that LCG has the right to terminate the contract, which was originally executed in 2008 and amended on four separate occasions since, any time the AMSER falls below 99.75% for two consecutive months (to be clear, that has not happened). Dubroc’s 2018 letter gave the company 60 days to make the $75,000 payment.
However, documentation received in August from LCG via a public records request offers no evidence that Republic has paid the fine. The request sought copies of checks or other records confirming payment of the AMSER fine.
Almost 60 emails responsive to The Current’s public records request were withheld by LCG, citing attorney-client privilege — a potential indication that local government’s legal department has been in talks and/or negotiations with Republic over the matter.
LCG’s Foret says it’s her understanding the fine remains outstanding. “I have not been involved in the back and forth,” she says.
“It has come to my attention that it has not been paid,” Councilwoman Liz Hebert, who has been attempting to hold Republic’s feet to the fire, tells me. “I’m working to fix this.”
Republic’s Sytsma did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story.
In an October 2017 email Bourg explains to Dubroc that his department calculates the AMSER only when the service level appears to be “worse than usual.”
The very next quarter, it turned out, constituted a “worse than usual” scenario, as Republic was also fined a whopping $51,000 for missed collections at that time, blaming the problem on employees calling in with the “Super Bowl flu.” A former Republic employee tells me high turnover at the company was the actual culprit. In total, Republic paid $73,475 in fines last year.
Through June of this year, records from LCG show, Republic has been fined $24,200 for missed collections. Fines, which LCG pockets by deducting what it pays Republic monthly, are $25 a day and start on the second day a collection is missed. LCG’s calculations are based entirely on complaints it receives; Hebert has asked Republic to give LCG access to its platform for logging complaints so that local government can more accurately calculate the AMSER and get a clearer picture of how the company is addressing problems.
Missed collections are among residents’ biggest complaints, along with workers spewing trash on streets, trucks leaking trash juice and hydraulic fluid on city and parish streets and the inability to get new or replacement bins delivered. Despite Sytsma’s insistence at an Aug. 6 City-Parish Council meeting that new bins are available for distribution, The Current was only able to find old bins ready for recycling at its Scott facility.
What’s next? Hebert has been looking for a way to get out of the Republic contract, and it’s unclear whether Republic is in breach, as the contract does not spell out any implications for non-payment of an AMSER fine. It’s also unknown whether LCG has been a willing negotiator on this matter for the past 14 months.
Assistant City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert, who handled the public records request, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.
News + Notes
Lafayette is running out of shelter space
Housing support agencies moved people into hotels around Lafayette using emergency federal and state government funds. Those funds have long since dried up.