Months after some North Bend residents were left without garbage service for as many as five weeks, the city is still negotiating with its trash collection company in an effort to receive financial reimbursements.
Republic Services, an Arizona-based waste management company the city contracts with for garbage pick-up, suspended several weeks of service from late December to early January due to a snowstorm and subsequent labor strike.
In total, city residents went between three and five weeks without service, causing North Bend Mayor Rob McFarland to issue an emergency declaration for the city on Jan. 13. In that proclamation, McFarland called the service disruption a “threat to life and property.”
In April, the city requested that Republic reimburse residents and the city for those weeks of missed service. An additional $30,000 was spent during the disruption, according to a city spokesperson. Those funds, which without reimbursements will be passed on to city taxpayers, went towards a third-party solid waste company and overtime for the city’s public work staff.
However, Republic has not paid those reimbursements or offered discounts. Since making that request, legal counsel for both the city and Republic have gone back and forth for months, said Wendy Weiker, a municipal sales manager for Republic, who spoke before the city council April 19.
Republic contends that they are not obligated under its contract with the city to provide those reimbursements. However, according to its website, they have provided the residents of Sammamish and Lake Forrest, who experienced similar disruptions, with reimbursement.
When asked by city councilmembers about the distinction between these cities and North Bend, Weiker said the contract language regarding missed service in those cities is “very specific.”
Republic has served North Bend for two and a half decades, with its most recent contract approved by the city council in 2012. That contract was set to expire in March of this year, but was renewed last October until 2024.
The city has already begun the process on its next contact, a process it says can take up to two years. In a press release, City Administrator David Miller said they are working to ensure that credits for missed service are included in that contract.
Outside of North Bend Republic also serves several other cities in the area, including: Bellevue, Medina, Renton, Covington, Black Diamond, Maple Valley, Kenmore, parts of unincorporated King County and others.
Republic initially missed service beginning in late December due to heavy snowfall, which Weiker said posed a safety risk for drivers.
Beginning Jan. 12, Republic workers from California, who belong to a San Diego-based Teamsters labor union, drove up to Washington to raise picket lines across the Puget Sound region. Local Republic workers honored those picket lines, causing disrupted service.
“Our members are standing in solidarity with their sisters and brothers in San Diego who are fighting for a fair contract,” John Scearcy, secretary-treasurer of the Tukwila-based Teamsters Local 117, told the Kent Reporter In January.
During the council meeting, Weiker apologized for the unforeseen events and missed service.
“It’s my understanding that in 25 years of serving the city we have never seen such a combination of events,” she said.
During the suspended service, Republic coordinated with the city to set-up a two day trash drop off at Torguson Park. One of those days had to be suspended early due to high demand.
Still, several councilmembers voiced frustrations about being charged for services that were not provided. McFarland said there’s still a “raw feeling” about the event.
“There was, I think, a lot of frustration during that period,” Mayor Pro Tem Jonathan Rosen said. Rosen said he doesn’t fault the company for not sending drivers out during a snowstorm, but remains agitated that the city hasn’t been reimbursed.
“You did everything you could, ” he told Weiker. “But you were still charging services that were not provided.”