The Reno City Council grilled Waste Management yesterday over an update about the waste manager’s franchise agreement with the City.
Gary Duhon of Refuse Inc. (Waste Management) gave a report on the franchise agreement between the city and waste managers.
Customers are increasingly taking advantage of single stream recycling, he said, now at a 75-percent use rate, up from about 30 percent in 2013. More than 15,000 tons of recycled material have been recycled, up from 5,593 tons in 2013.
“That’s a huge success,” he said.
Councilmembers had a different view.
Councilman Paul McKenzie scolded Waste Management for not showing up to present their report at its scheduled time while members of the public waited to hear it.
“You reported on the increase in recycling, which is an income to Waste Management, but yet we’re still charging the citizens to recycle,” he added. “Then we hear objection from Waste Management about other people who would like to get into the recycle business and then paying people for their recyclable materials because I feel like it’s undercutting your services.
“If you’ve got increased recyclables, our rates should be going down. They shouldn’t be going up.”
Duhon countered that Waste Management met with the City for five years to consider all variables of the franchise agreement and its terms, with that point being one previously addressed.
“It fairly balances all the finances,” he said. “If there’s more recyclable materials, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s more profits. The value for recyclable materials right now is way down.”
He said that city staff approved the proposal and that the franchise agreement was built by city staff.
Also at issue was the construction of a recycling center, the Eco-Center. Critics, including McKenzie, suggested that the center should be built by now, but Duhon said that construction was meant to commence by March, which, he said, it was.
“There may have been a few months of delay along the way,” Duhon said. “We weren’t obligated (to finish construction in March). It is being completed as required by the contract.”
Councilmember Naomi Duerr suggested that in order to give consumers more confidence in Waste Management that more oversight is needed in the recycling process.
“Do we have to go in and do surprise inspections?” she asked. “I really would like to have some methodology so that we could give some assurance to our citizens that the numbers that you’re reporting are good.
“We go out and inspect the concrete that gets poured, we do testing of materials when a building’s getting built, we test the paving when they do the paving on the road… Is there a way — and I’d really like you guys to put your minds to it – is there a way that we could set up a third-party system that would periodically test, and give our residents that level of confidence they’re looking for?”
McKenzie echoed the call for independent oversight.
“I very much believe that we need to get an independent auditor to audit Waste Management, not only their financials but the recyclable portion of their business so that we can get an independent eye on what’s occurring over there and how they’re living up to the franchise agreement…” he said.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.