OPINION | Barry Richard: The ABC’s of the Trash Crisis
The Mitchell Administration is no closer to resolving the city's potential trash crisis than it was when it took ABC Disposal to court to force the company to honor its 10-year contract with the City.
Citing changes in the recyclables market overseas, ABC began billing the City in order to offset the increased cost of disposing of those recyclables. The Administration was correct to reject the new charges that were not a part of the contract the two parties signed five years ago.
ABC threatened to stop collecting the city's recyclables, a violation of the contract, but walked back the threat when the Administration sought a court injunction to enforce the terms of the contract. With the threat now off the table, the court determined there was no need for an injunction.
But, the matter is far from resolved. ABC says it will continue to charge the city for the added cost of disposing of the recyclables and expects to be paid. Mayor Jon Mitchell tells me he will not "write a blank check" to ABC, and continues to demand to see the company's books in order to determine whether the changes in the marketplace are resulting in a hardship for ABC, or if it is simply a matter of its profit margin being reduced.
The Administration is correct to challenge the cost increase, but is really in a no-win situation. Should the City break its contract with ABC and go with another vendor, the company would likely go out of business. The price of contracting with a new vendor would undoubtedly be at a considerably higher cost than agreeing to give ABC more money for the recyclables.
The two sides have a vested interest in working out a solution that does not involve a judge. One way or another, this is going to cost the people of New Bedford more money, but a reasonable approach could keep the cost increase to a minimum.