City Council Plans Next Steps for Trail Ridge; Administrators Prepare for Legal Disputes, Landfill Expansion and Bid Documents

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Byline: TIA MITCHELL

As the City Council prepares to reject Mayor John Peyton's Trail Ridge landfill deal, city administrators must begin planning their next steps.

The council is expected to vote Tuesday to withdraw the mayor's proposal to give Waste Management a contract extension worth an estimated $750 million over 35 years. Members have instead suggested the city take a three-pronged approach: solve its legal dispute with Waste Management on the contract terms, begin permitting landfill expansion and begin drafting bid documents.

General Counsel Rick Mullaney said this course of action shouldn't be taken lightly.

"If the proposed agreement does not go forward, then of course what we're looking at is very likely litigation," Mullaney said, "and very high-stakes litigation in which there will be a winner and a loser."

Mullaney wouldn't get into specifics but said the time, expense and risks of a lawsuit are all things the council have to weigh in making a final decision Tuesday.

Even if Peyton's plan is taken off the table, the city still must continue to work with Waste Management under the terms of the current contract. In the city's view, that contract expires when the 144-acre landfill, which has five to seven years of capacity remaining, is full.

Misty Skipper, the mayor's spokeswoman, said city solid waste managers don't want to discuss Trail Ridge until their legal strategy and overall landfill strategy are clearer. The first step is when the council takes final action.

"Regardless of the outcome of the council vote, we expect that the city and Waste Management will continue to have a good, professional working relationship as the company executes their responsibilities at Trail Ridge Landfill," she said via e-mail Friday.

Waste Management spokesman Chuck Dees agreed, saying the company is happy to remain at Trail Ridge though displeased by the council's recommendation Thursday that the plan be rejected.

"We stand by the belief that WM and the mayor took a prudent business course in trying to resolve remaining areas of disagreement," Dees said via e-mail. "And while we believe that settlement is in the best interest of the citizens of Jacksonville, we respect the right of the City Council to make policy decisions. …