GFL Asks City Council for Rate Hike as Customer Base Drops Again

By Jeremy Coumbes on June 13, 2023 at 6:09pm

The cost of residential trash service is increasing again in the City of Jacksonville.

Following a lengthy discussion during the workshop session last night, the Jacksonville City Council, by a vote of 9 – 1 with Ward 5 Alderman Aaron Scott being the lone no vote, approved an amendment to the contract with GFL Environmental to increase the monthly charge to $20.50.

It’s the second time GFL has requested an increase from the city since the seven-year contract went into effect on January 1st. City Attorney Dan Beard says the request by GFL was spurred from an amendment earlier this year.

We had adopted an amendment to the GFL contract in the spring that included a provision that if their accounts dropped by more than ten percent, then they could come back to the city and ask for a readjustment in their rates. That has occurred with their accounts dropping to around 3,900 and the trigger was about 4,600 accounts at the time.

Beard says GFL first requested the new monthly charge to go up to $24.63 per month from the current rate of $18.95, before settling for the $20.50 rate. In October of last year, the city and GFL originally negotiated a monthly price of $17.29 which was based on the number of residential accounts in the city.

Beard says the issue with the fluctuating price lies in the number of active accounts being lower than GFL expected. However, he says GFL agreed on the lower increase to allow more time for ongoing billing issues to be worked out.

There have been some issues with the billing and I know they are trying to get those straightened around, but there still seems to be an inordinately high number of delinquent accounts when we think it’s an issue with the billing system and not necessarily that the customers don’t want the service anymore.

We’ve had customers that have been in contact with the City Clerk saying that they had not received bills from time to time until they got a notice of termination. So they have to work through those to get them straightened around and we think ultimately the customer base will be somewhere between 4,000 and 4,500 where it will settle out.”

During the initial contract negotiations last year, Beard says GFL requested a listing of the number of trash customers in the city- after GFL had already bought out Area Disposal and had access to those in-house accounts.

Beard says the city did not keep records of Area Disposal’s customers and instead provided GFL with a list of residential water customers, with the caveat that not all of the water customers receive trash service.

GFL has since listed areas such as Rolling Acres and Prairie Knolls, along with any rental property with more than four units as commercial accounts, greatly decreasing the amount of available residential customers.

During the workshop Beard also updated the council that some discussion has been had on if the city should cancel the agreement and look into allowing other residential waste haulers to pick up trash in the city. He says that’s not a step the city wants to take at this point, but it could be a possibility.

The issue presenting itself now to the city and to GFL is, is this going to be a workable contract? I think both sides think that it is, but if it is not, and GFL is not in a position to go forward with this structure, then certainly we would be looking to open it up to other waste haulers, but at this stage, that’s not where we are.”

Beard says in the meantime, GFL and the city have agreed to keep the rate at the new $20.50 charge for the next three months to see where the total number of customers and billing issues settle out.