Mitchell: ‘Lawsuit Still There’ in Ongoing Discussions with ABC Disposal
NEW BEDFORD — ABC Disposal may have come out unscathed in a lawsuit filed by the City of New Bedford, but it remains to be seen if there will be another suit, and if ABC will emerge victorious again.
On Tuesday, the court ruled that it would not grant an injunction requested by the City against ABC to force the company to continue to pick up recycling from New Bedford residents after July 1, despite ABC previously stating it would not because of added costs for recycling that it has attempted to pass on to the City since November.
ABC avoided the injunction because it had reached out to the City following the lawsuit saying it intended to continue recycling pickup, despite a letter previously sent to the City claiming otherwise.
CEO Mike Camara told WBSM News Tuesday that it has been billing the City for the added fees, despite being in the fifth year of a 10-year contract between the two sides that has an agreed-upon rate for trash and recycling pickup, and that it intends to fully collect on those bills.
In his weekly appearance on WBSM Wednesday, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said although ABC wasn't slapped with the injunction, it doesn't mean it will get the extra fees.
"I'm not saying we're going to pay those bills," Mitchell said. "If they're sending us additional bills, thank you very much. We are looking at those bills, but we want to see (ABC's) books."
Mitchell said that because ABC said it would continue to follow through on its obligations under the contract, the court "really wasn't left with a dispute to rule on."
However, he said the two sides could return to court if other issues aren't worked out.
"The lawsuit is still there," Mitchell said. "We're concerned that ABC is sending us these bills. We are not required to pay those bills under the contract. The City pays an annual fee every year, period. These additional charges are not ones the City has any obligation to fulfill."
"I'm not unsympathetic of their plight. I have a lot of respect for ABC. They've done a good job, to my mind, of serving the residents of the City," Mitchell said. "But I can't just sign a blank check because of a vendor of the City says it's less profitable than it thought it would be."
Mitchell said paying the extra cost was not out of the question if it really could cause ABC to become financially insolvent, noting that switching companies could cost the City just as much, if not more.
"If we're forced to go (with) some other company, it may be more expensive for the city. That may be the reality that we face," Mitchell said. "Until we look at ABC's books, we won't know for sure."
Mitchell said ABC "hasn't disclosed all they need to disclose," and said if it reaches the point where the City does file another suit, the company would have to open its books anyway during discovery.
"I hope not to get to that point," he said. "They should be throwing the doors open, saying 'this is what we have' so we can talk it through with them better. This idea that the City is just going to pay some bill they send us is just not realistic."