Union Co. Commissioner chimes in on alleged $1 million conflcit of interest

- There’s a whole lot of ‘trash talk’ happening in Indian Trial this week. FOX 46 Charlotte is investigating what some are calling a million-dollar conflict of interest in Indian Trail -- and now the Union County Chairman is chiming in.

This comes after FOX 46 Charlotte’s investigation into the bidding for garbage pickup. Waste Pro and Waste Connections are the two bidders and Waste Connections is nearly $1 million less -- coming in at $8 million against $8.9 million over a 5-year period.

RelatedTrash Talk: Indian Trail residents call foul on million-dollar garbage difference

Councilman Gary Savoie is pushing for the more expensive bid, while people are questioning his friendship with a Waste Pro manager Robert Allen -- along with negative statements Savoie made about the low bidder that turned out to be false.

“I may not be a genius but I’m smart enough to know when I’m being taken advantage of and we are all being taken advantage of,” an attendee said.

“I have no confidence currently in any sitting council member to make a truly unbiased, just decision,” another said.

“You guys chose these positions and I’d like to believe in my heart, because I’m naïve, that you guys chose them with the best intentions,” an attendee said.

FOX 46 Charlotte’s investigation is now uncovering a $400,000 Union County involvement to this tale of trash.  

Trash from both companies ends up at a landfill in Anson County. The thing is – Waste Connections, the low bidder , uses its own transfer station to get it there while Waste Pro pays Union County to transfer their garbage for them.

FOX 46 Charlotte obtained an email from Union County Chairman Frank Aikmus to Indian Trail officials, reading, in part, “The revenue loss of over $400,000 to the county could prove to be detrimental.”

The chairman said the county facility already operates at a loss and losing the $400,000 from Indian Trail might result in a tax increase or fee.

“[Union County] get(s) a lot more income than we do,” Mischelle Reece said.

Reece, who FOX 46 Charlotte spoke with for its initial report, believes the county has no place in Indian Trail’s trash talk and the town shouldn’t have to throw out an extra $1 million so the county can get in on the collection.

“Who is the Indian Trail Council for, Indian Trail or Union County?" Reece added.

FOX 46 left a voicemail for Commissioner AIkmus on Tuesday but a call was not returned.

Back at the meeting Tuesday, resident Michael Faulkenberry brought up the $3.2 million trash facility that Waste Pro, the higher bidder, is constructing in Indian Trail. It’s one reason why Savoie said he’s supporting the high bidder as it’s bringing its tax base to Indian Trail.

Savoie also said he has been impressed with Waste Pro's performance over the past five years as Indian Trail's trash service.

Savoie declined camera interview throughout the past week but told FOX 46 on Tuesday that he will be willing to interview in some form this week.

When it comes to garbage in Indian Trail, a lot of people believe something stinks with elected officials pushing a bid nearly $1 million higher…who have friends working for the high bidder.

“If you can’t do the right thing for this town you do not belong in one of those super comfy chairs at all," another public speaker added.

Below is a copy of the full email from Commissioner Aikmus...

Mayor Alvarez,

 

I wanted to bring a matter to your attention.  This relates to Union County’s desire to collaborate with the Town Indian Trail on its recent Solid Waste Curbside Collection Recycling RFP.  County Public Works staff met with Rox Burhans and Scott Kaufhold on November 4 and had a detailed discussion about a proposed inter-local agreement between Union County and the Town that would lock in a discounted municipal solid waste (MSW) disposal rate that all responders to your RFP could avail themselves.  The proposal also included a discounted rate structure for the Town’s curb-side collected yard waste and recycling.

 

The solid waste from your Town currently represents about 15% of the waste coming to our facility and represents over $400,000 in revenue to our Solid Waste Management Program.  The loss of this revenue could impact our convenience center/recycling program for Indian Trail and other areas of Union County.  The County-wide recycling programs and alternative disposal programs operate at a financial loss and it is only with the revenue from our MSW operations that we can continue providing these alternative services without creating an additional tax or fee burden.

 

Later in November staff received a phone call from Rox Burhans indicated that the Town was not interested in entering into an inter-local agreement and that they were moving forward with their RFP as originally constructed.  To create a more competitive environment for the Town, and to create an incentive for the MSW to continue to come to Union County, the Board of Commissioners approved a new declining block rate structure for MSW, Yard Waste and Single Stream Recycling for all commercial haulers to be effective July 1, 2017. These rates included MSW volume discounts as low as $36.00 per ton, yard waste disposal as low as $18.00 per ton and a modified single stream transfer station option to save money on hauling recyclables to Charlotte.  This new declining block rates were communicated to the commercial haulers that were submitting proposals to Indian Trail.

 

It is our understanding that in a March an alternate bid for waste disposal was received from Waste Connections based upon a $33.00 per ton disposal cost as compared to the County’s new rate of $36.00.  Communications from the Town’s staff on March 7 indicated that your Council met and discussed the $33.00 per ton disposal rate and had agreed on two RFP finalists being Waste Connections and Waste Pro.  At that point County staff attempted to meet with Town staff and leadership to ask for their support in securing the MSW volume from Indian Trail.  Mr. Burhans reply was for the County not to interfere with their RFP process.  Ms. Coto, our County Manager, also recently reached out to your Interim Town Manager requesting a meeting and her request was denied.  I have attached a copy of the email for your information.

 

Union County has attempted to work with the Town to secure the waste volume by creating a discount structure that represents significant savings in support of your Solid Waste curb-side collection and disposal program.  I understand that based upon your volume, the difference between the proposals results in an annual savings of $32,538 for disposal.  However, the revenue loss of over $400,000 to the County could prove to be detrimental to our Solid Waste Convenience Center and Recycling Program and our community at large.

 

We hope that Indian Trail will continue its solid waste partnership with Union County and continue to direct its municipal collected waste to our facility.

 

Best,

 

Frank

 

 

 

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