Garbage fees raised, but not without a stink

Waste Management of Arkansas will be receiving its contract-mandated Nov. 1 residential garbage rate increase, but the company was trashed a bit during the approval process at Monday night’s Pine Bluff City Council meeting.

The council unanimously supported a resolution raising the monthly fee to $15.82 from $15.59 per unit, but not without some resentment.

It’s required by ordinance that the costs of collection and the amounts received from customers be sufficient in covering expenses to the city in the franchise agreement, but the council’s endorsement was conditional and at one time somewhat questionable.

Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr., who chairs the council’s public health and welfare committee, said he wanted to hold WMA accountable for its contracted responsibilities. Holcomb said the company has been heavily criticized by a number of residents within the past six months.

Mayor Debe Hollingsworth concurred, saying she had met with WMA officials four times since taking office in January, seeking to bring about improvements to the firm’s performance. She said she was pleased that WMA’s call center had been moved back to Pine Bluff after it was relocated elsewhere, but she still has some concerns.

A citizen attending the meeting complained of the company’s “poor service and lack of response to complaints and requests.” She insisted that the firm didn’t deserve a rate hike.

After Aldermen Wayne Easterly and George Stepps and Alderwoman Thelma Walker pointed out that a failure to endorse the proposed increase would violate the current contract and possibly result in legal problems, Holcomb withdrew a request that the measure be pulled from the meeting agenda until WMA officials met with Holcomb’s committee.

Stepps said that although he and others were also displeased with WMA’s service, dissatisfaction doesn’t change requirements of the contract.