FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Since the disaster that was Red River Waste Solutions, Fort Wayne City Councilman Russ Jehl has been trying to get money back into the pockets of the customers who’ve been dealing with late or completely missed pick-ups for years. Jehl’s called the ratepayers “longsuffering” in the past.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, council members discussed and voted on a resolution that Jehl introduced that he says will put some of the money Red River pays the city in fines back in the ratepayer pockets.
The resolution (R-22-06-28) would make the solid waste department do three main things:
- Prevent solid waste from paying Red River without publicly disclosing the number of missed pick-ups
- Request the law department to recommend and explain the fine for Red River’s last month of service to city council
- Require the Solid Waste Department to recommend to city council what it should do with the fine money
That resolution passed Tuesday night with a 6-1-1 vote (6 yes, 1 no, 1 abstain).
The resolution is non-binding, meaning the city does not have to follow it. But Tim Haffner, one of Fort Wayne’s city attorneys, said that was the plan all along.
“We’re delighted to provide that, and we would have anyway, and if they ask for it in the form of an ordinance we’re happy to comply,” Haffner said.
Haffner added that the money Jehl’s plan would use is limited.
“There isn’t a big pot of money sitting around to be paid out to anybody,” Haffner said.
As part of the contract transition agreement with Red River, the city can withhold payments to Red River because of poor service. But, Haffner explained, that’s not money coming to the city that can be redistributed. It’s just money the city doesn’t have to spend.
Think of it like if your friend picked up the bill for lunch. You didn’t gain $20. You just haven’t spent it.
Red River will still have to pay the city any fines incurred prior to January 30, 2022. The agreement says additional fines between February 1 and June 30 of 2022 can be withheld from payments to Red River.
Jehl is still hopeful that the fine money can go back to ratepayers.
“There is nothing that prohibits us and the bankruptcy courts from giving rebate back to the ratepayer when we collect the large fine,” Jehl said.
That large fine will be to the tune of $604,508 from January to May of this year, with even more money coming from the fines in June.
It’s not clear when the June fine amount will be calculated, but Jehl says it could be as much as $300,000.