City Recycling Fee to Increase 80% Under New Agreement

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WARREN, Pa. – Warren City residents will see an 80 percent increase in their recycling fee beginning in January 2023 under a new contract approved by City Council during a special meeting on Monday.

Following a lengthy discussion, primarily centered around whether to accept the contract bid or rebid in search of a 1-year agreement, council voted 6-1 to accept Waste Management’s bid for a 3-year agreement with options for a fourth and fifth year. Mayor David Wortman was the lone vote against.

Under the agreement, the fee residents pay for recycling will increase to $6.29 per month beginning on Jan. 1, 2023. Residents are currently paying $3.50 per month for recycling. Recycling will still be picked up twice per month under the new agreement.

“I see tremendous advantage to entering into a long-term contract,” Councilman John Wortman said. “I would ask you to think about generally, economic policy, look at salaries five years ago, look at housing costs five years ago, look at the cost of milk five years ago, these things inherently go up. I think in the long term, we will save our citizens a substantial amount of money to enter into this agreement now.”

Yearly rates under the new agreement with Waste Management:

Mayor Wortman asked about the possibility of entering into a 1-year contract in order to see if the city could get a better rate on a long-term deal next year.

“I look at a lot of different costs in a lot of different areas. I have never seen an 80 percent increase year over year, it’s unprecedented,” Mayor Wortman said. “The city is not in a good position, in my opinion, to enter into a long-term agreement with the idea that if we don’t do it, it’s just going to increase. And we’re going to save money by spending 80 percent more.”

Councilmen Wortman and Jared Villella both pointed to the fact that current recycling rates are so low because the contract was negotiated five years ago.

“The reason that we had that price in 2022, 2021, and 2020 was because of the contract that we negotiated,” Villella said. “We cut out the escalator for the last two and a half, maybe three years. We don’t know what the price would have been because we haven’t had to see that increase, because we haven’t had to bid it.”

One of Mayor Wortman’s reasons for looking at a short-term contract was to see if inflation, which reached record highs in 2022, would start to decrease over the next 12 months which might lead to better rates on a bid in 2023. Several council members pointed to the fact that rebidding for a 1-year contract might lead to higher rates in 2023, and comes with the risk of seeing an even greater increase in 2024.

The other issue in trying to find better rates is that according to City DPW Director Mike Holtz, Waste Management was the only company that submitted a bid to provide recycling services.

“I’m not sure we’ve ever had a second company bid,” Holtz said in response to a question from council. “I knew for two years this (rate increase) was going to happen. I got on the phone with everybody and said, ‘Please bid, please bid.’ Most people said, ‘We’d love to bid, you’re just in the middle of nowhere.'”

Councilman Phil Gilbert asked what would happen if the city rebid the contract and no companies submitted a bid.

“The city would then get into the recycling business,” Holtz said. “The city is mandated by the state to have curbside recycling. We would have to buy a truck and hire some folks. We don’t really want to do that.”

An amendment to accept the bid on a 1-year deal failed, 4-3, with Councilman Wortman, Villella, Gilbert, and Dani Flasher voting against and Mayor Wortman, Wendy McCain, and Maurice Cashman in favor.

Council then voted to accept the bid for a 3-year contract, with options for 2026 and 2027, as submitted by Waste Management.