Fort Wayne is officially asking state legislators to give local governments a better option for obtaining solid waste services, such as trash collection.
The City Council's decision Tuesday night to approve a resolution addressing that came hours after state representatives on an 86-4 vote approved House Bill 1286, which would address how solid waste services are obtained. The state Senate will now consider the bill.
Council members recognized the bill's progress before approving the resolution, which was first announced Jan. 8.
City Council members have shared frustrations about feeling like their hands are tied when it comes to accepting a bid for solid waste services. Red River Waste Solutions was approved as the city's trash and recycling collection provider in 2017.
State law requires municipalities to accept “the lowest responsible and responsive bidder.” Red River was the lowest bidder in 2017, but the Texas company was not able to handle the weekly collection of trash for more than 83,000 homes, city officials have said.
Service issues, such as excessive missed collections, have been reported by residents since the beginning of the contract. In October, the company filed Chapter 11 reorganizational bankruptcy, which offers it protection and requires that it be paid fairly for services.
Jay Jaffe, an attorney of Faegre Drinker, said Red River loses money every day it services Fort Wayne because the monthly payment of less than $500,000 a month doesn't cover operating and overhead costs. The city plans to pay Red River more to cover the services for the next six months until it can find the city's next trash provider, Tim Haffner, city corporation attorney, said Jan. 18.
Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, spoke in support of the bill before a house committee Jan. 19 during the legislative session in Indianapolis. Didier said it would be a blessing if the bill makes it into law.
“What I ask of all of you is to get ahold of the state senators to move this along,” Didier said to fellow council members.
Councilman Jason Arp, R-4th, abstained from voting on the resolution that the rest of the council members approved. Arp said he abstained because he's heard from state senators who oppose the bill and was undecided Tuesday evening.
Arp missed the last two council meetings because of a death in his family and said he hasn't had time to properly review the bill. He thinks the city would be better off to leave garbage collections up to individual residents, which is the case for county residents.
“I think we could do something like that in the future where we don't put all of the city's eggs in one basket, hoping for one contractor to be able to handle everything,” he said.
In other business, the City Council approved the rezoning of 8010 Illinois Road, which is less than an acre of land, to allow for a three-building office park with 18 parking spaces. Dennis Emley, the owner, plans to have two buildings built on the property that resemble the already-existing schoolhouse.
Steve Mauldin, president of the Falls at Beaver Creek's homeowners association, said residents of the surrounding neighborhoods oppose the commercial development.
The rezoning was passed with an 8-1 vote with Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, in opposition.