Meeting postponed: Solid Waste Advisory Board was expected to talk Red River

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File photo from the December 15, 2021 meeting of the Solid Waste Advisory Board.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The first meeting of 2022 for the Solid Waste Advisory Board scheduled for January 5 is now postponed to later in the month because the city attorney who was supposed to provide an update on the Red River Waste Solutions situation “wasn’t able to confirm joining the meeting.” That’s according to Democratic Fort Wayne City Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, who is an appointed member to the board.

Tucker said the board was supposed to get an update on where the bond payment from Red River stands, where the city is in its talks with the trash company and how things are moving forward. That update was to come from city attorney Tim Haffner, but he was unable to make the meeting.

Updates on miscollections, fines incurred and bulk items were also expected at Wednesday’s meeting, Tucker said. Board President Arlene Nation sent out a letter to the rest of the board asking to reschedule the meeting to January 26 because they weren’t going to get the Red River update as planned. Regarding bulk items, Tucker noted to WANE 15 that the city used to have unlimited trash pickup, but as a way to help relieve pressure on Red River, the mayor limited collection to one bulk item and everything else has to be in the trash can.

One of the four board members was also sick, according to Tucker.

Per the contract with the city, Red River and its surety company were required to post a bond payment for 2022 by January 1. On January 3, a spokesman for the city told WANE 15 they have no indication that the payment was made. Not paying the bond is technically a breach of contract, but it’s also still tied up in bankruptcy court after Red River filed for Chapter 11 in October 2021. The city added it’s “more interested in a long-term solution than a short-term claim.”

At its December meeting, the Solid Waste Advisory Board voted to “accelerate the search” for a back-up plan if Red River chooses to reject its contract with Fort Wayne as part of its bankruptcy reorganization. At the time, it was looking into emergency contract possibilities with Waste Management, Republic or GFL Environmental, which all already operate in Fort Wayne.

WANE 15 asked the city on January 3 about the status of a contingency plan and city spokesman John Perlich said, “I’m not in a position to speculate on what provider(s) would be part of a theoretical contingency plan. It’s our duty to be prepared if something goes wrong.”

Republican City Councilman Russ Jehl is also an appointed member to the Solid Waste Advisory Board. He told WANE 15 Wednesday that he doesn’t have faith in the city’s Solid Waste Department.

“If they supposedly have plans in place, should the ratepayer believe it. Because absolutely nothing the Solid Waste Department has told the public over the last four years has been sound advice or proven to be quality information, including their recommendation to hire Red River in the first place,” Jehl said.

On January 3, Perlich also told WANE 15 that the city had “productive” talks with Red River over the holidays and an update to the public would be “in the coming weeks,” but he didn’t indicate how long that could be.

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