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Burlington city council agrees to new recycling contract that triples monthly charges


Burlington’s city council has approved a new contract with the city’s long-time recycling hauler that will triple the rates that residents currently pay for curbside collection.

The council gave its unanimous nod to this agreement on Tuesday, effectively adding another five years to its 10-year relationship with Green for Life Environmental (GFL), or Waste Industries, as the company styled itself when it began to collect Burlington’s recyclables in 2012.

Under GFL’s new contract, the city’s residents would enjoy a seamless continuation of their existing service when the company’s current arrangement runs out on June 30. This continuity would nevertheless come at a substantial markup, with rates slated to jump from $2.29 to $6.90 a month for each of the community’s households.

The council accepted this increase as something of a foregone conclusion when Gary Smith, the city’s public works director, presented the terms of the contract during a monthly work session on Monday.

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Smith told the council’s members that GFL had been one of only two companies that even deigned to compete for Burlington’s business when the city recently solicited bids for its curbside recycling service. He added that the other prospective bidder – Republic Services – declined to submit a quote once it had reviewed the city’s terms and conditions. GFL proved more amendable to these terms, which is already meets, although it insisted on the aforementioned rate increase as part of the deal.

Smith assured the council that GFL’s proposed rate is actually quite reasonable given the current dynamics of the recycling industry, which has become much less lucrative since the company firmed up its original contract with Burlington a decade ago.

“Both Mebane and Graham were quoted the exact same prices,” Burlington’s public works director went on to note, “[and] we’ve been very satisfied with the service that GFL has provided for the past 10 years.”

Councilman Harold Owen, who served as Burlington’s city manager before his elevation to the council, insisted that the steep increase in GFL’s rate isn’t much of a surprise considering how deeply discounted the company’s services were in 2012.

“The contract that we got 10 years ago was ridiculously low,” Owen recalled. “We almost dropped out of our chairs when we heard it.”

Owen’s recollection was confirmed by assistant city manager Nolan Kirkman, who went on to acknowledge that GFL eventually found itself ruing the rock-bottom rate which it had promised the city.

“For a while, they were upside down on their contract,” Kirkman recalled, “and they even asked us to reconsider the rate.”

Kirkman added that GFL honored its contract even when the city refused to budge on the price.

The council went on to give its formal approval to this new agreement during a regular semimonthly meeting on Tuesday. The contract passed as part of a “consent agenda” of presumably routine items that its members typically adopt en bloc at the start of each meeting.

See earlier coverage from Monday night’s (Jan. 31) work session:

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