UPDATE: Polk County's board of commissioners voted unanimously to approve a settlement with Republic Services for $1,625,000 on Nov. 21.
- The board of commissioners in Polk County, FL is scheduled to approve a $1.6 million settlement with Republic Services at its Nov. 21 meeting, according to an agenda that was released prior to the meeting. This settlement would cover a portion of previously withheld payments for past service, Republic's decision to invoke force majeure prior to Hurricane Irma and other factors, while releasing both parties from any future claims or causes of action related to the franchise contract.
- Advanced Disposal and FCC Environmental Services took over the residential contract for unincorporated Polk County in October. This included the removal of any extra carts from households and the delivery of new 64-gallon carts for residents that requested them. Multiple residents have expressed frustration with this request-based system, and the time it has taken to receive carts, as reported by The Ledger.
- A reduction in the list of accepted materials has also prompted backlash. Polk County no longer allows glass, plastic water bottles and magazines in its program. At a Nov. 17 meeting, county officials attributed this to a decline in recycling markets, specifically citing China's changing import policies, as reported by News Channel 8.
This will be the fourth settlement since Republic's franchise agreement with Polk began in 2010. This latest settlement, hashed out over two mediation sessions, covers multiple disputes that have arisen since the last one in 2014. While it's not uncommon for this type of final accounting to happen after a contract ends, Republic's local general manager has called Polk's recent stance "unprecedented."
This comment came after Polk's county attorney sent the company a notice of default for missed collections before and after Hurricane Irma in September. Republic's decision to suspend collection prior to the storm's arrival was described as "extremely disappointing" by the county and initiated weeks of escalating legal back-and-forth.
The company maintains it did this to allow employees enough time to secure their homes or evacuate. County officials maintain that conditions weren't severe enough to justify suspending collection. Advanced and FCC drivers ultimately fielded trucks, on a volunteer basis, to make supplemental collections.
After this final round of drama, Polk and Republic appear mutually ready to part ways. Based on local media reports, residents seem to have mixed or neutral feelings about the various companies involved, but are not happy about the service change between contracts.
A transition period can often be expected when local governments switch to a new provider after a long period of time. Polk was trying to be economical by pulling carts that residents weren't technically paying for and only delivering them to people who asked, though the process may have become overcomplicated.
Combining that with a change to the list of accepted materials has added further confusion, which if left unchecked could lead to a lack of confidence in the recycling program. Polk may be done with Republic after this settlement, but it still has weeks to go before operations return to normal.