Garbage Rate Controversy Draws a Crowd
Byline: Winston Ross The Register-Guard
FLORENCE - Something is rotten in the City of Rhododendrons. (Hint: It's not the rhododendrons.)
It's garbage, actually - or, more specifically, garbage rates. About 200 residents packed the Florence Events Center on Monday night, as the City Council tried to unravel a mystery about trash hauling rates that has a quarter of the city's residents facing the prospect of their costs tripling.
Only hours before the meeting, City Manager Rodger Bennett fired off a tersely worded letter to one of the city's two garbage collectors - County Transfer & Recycling - declaring its contract with two gated manufactured home parks illegal and threatening to revoke the company's license.
Bennett says the company violated city code when it agreed to provide services to residents of Florentine Estates and Greentrees Village at a third of what the city requires haulers to charge. There are 449 lots in Florentine Estates and 567 in Greentrees. Florence sets minimum rates for garbage pickup, so one company can't use its financial girth to undercut a competitor, drive it out of business and then set whatever rate it pleases.
But County Transfer didn't abide by those rules, Bennett says.
"They made a sweetheart deal with Greentrees and Florentine, violating the ordinance," Bennett says.
When city officials found out about it, they demanded that the company come into compliance, so County Transfer officials went to the two homeowners associations and told residents that the city was forcing them to triple the garbage fees.
"Now there's a mini-earthquake going on out there," Bennett said. "We were trying to do something good and stepped in a quagmire."
The whole thing stinks, says Janice Minks, a Greentrees resident. "It's unconscionable," she says. "Everybody here is so upset. I called (U.S. Rep. Peter) DeFazio today."
What's most puzzling is why County Transfer decided to cut the deal, since it may have been providing the service at a loss. At the meeting, district manager Scott Johnson couldn't offer an explanation.
"It's not a profitable rate," he admitted, but he said he didn't negotiate the contract and declined to elaborate on why County Transfer would sign on for such a deal. …