CEO: Suit Against ABC Disposal by City of New Bedford ‘Not Fair’
ABC Disposal CEO Mike Camara is says he doesn't think it is fair that his company is being sued by the City of New Bedford.
The City officially filed the lawsuit in Bristol County Superior Court on Monday, alleging ABC has charged the City more than $189,000 above its contracted amount since November of last year. The suit aims to block the company from charging anything more than what is agreed upon in the contract, which does not expire until 2023.
"I don't think it's fair," Camara told WBSM's Phil Paleologos this morning. "We've done a good job, and I think there's an opportunity here to talk about this."
A hearing on the matter has been moved from this Thursday to next Tuesday, May 29, in Superior Court.
ABC recently sent a letter to New Bedford and four other communities in which it is contracted to remove recyclables, stating it may have to increase fees after June 30 to remain financially viable in the face of rising recycling costs due to China's restrictive new environmental policy.
"When you look at what we're paying for recyclables, how long can you keep paying that, and not have it interfere with the cash flow in the normal course of business?" Camara asked.
Camara said he had not yet had time to read over the lawsuit, but just the fact that the City filed it already had him upset.
"I'm so upset because when you sue ABC Disposal, you sue my mother, Linda Camara, who is 83 years old," he said. "I mean, who would want their mom to be sued at 83 years old? It's just too much stress. It's not fair."
Camara said his parents have owned businesses in New Bedford since 1953, starting with a small luncheonette and growing to include a gumball machine business, a laundromat, delivery service, and even a television and radio repair shop in his father's basement. He said ABC Disposal has been in business since 1967, and has donated much to the community.
"We support so much around the city," he said, noting the company recently helped out a family decimated by a fire, and helped fuel city vehicles stuck in the snow. "Any time someone has asked for a dumpster for a charity event, we never say no. We're a large property owner, a large employer, about 100 of our workers live in the city, have homes, we pay taxes on a couple hundred trucks. I think we give back a lot, and I think the lawsuit is unfair."
But New Bedford Jon Mitchell said it's about protecting taxpayers, reiterating the City's request to see ABC Disposal's books to ensure the rate increase is about financial viability and not profitability.
"Recycling collection is a vital service that saves city taxpayers precious space in our municipal landfill. The company's repeated refusals to share its financial information with the City, as well as its recent conflicting statements about whether it will comply with its contract, have left the City no choice but to seek a court order that will protect taxpayers," Mayor Mitchell said in a statement to WBSM News. "The City remains open to discussions with the company and respects its long history of quality service, but the City will not stand idly by in the face of a threatened suspension of service."
Camara said he does intend to allow the City to see the books, but that it has been an internal struggle within the family-owned business.
"I know they want to look at our books, but we're a family business, and I have family members that don't feel that's fair," he said. "(But) I'm going against their wishes, I'm going to let (the City) come in here in a couple weeks. I don't want to do it. We are a private company. We're not a public company."
Mitchell has said the City is pursuing other options, should it not reach an understanding with ABC by July 1. Paleologos mentioned "another company out of Dartmouth" is saying it could easily step in and take over trash collection for New Bedford.
"I know those people," Camara said. "I think if that happened, it would be a disaster. There would be a lot of complaints."
Camara said he hopes the company can continue its relationship with the City, which began in 2003.
"We plan to be here for a long time, that's our goal," he said. "I think we're an asset to the City, because for the last 15 years, they've gotten superior service, and I think it's a very fair price we charge. If they have to pay someone else to come in from out of town for service, it's going to cost a lot more. We're based here in the city, we've been a good neighbor here in the North End, and it's a benefit the City should take advantage of."