City readies for conversations with alternative trash haulers on heels of Red River bankruptcy filing – Fort Wayne’s NBC

Posted: October 21, 2021 at 10:48 pm

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - The city's distressed trash collection company says it expects no interruptions in trash pickup service in Fort Wayne.

But Mayor Tom Henry's administration plans to have discussions with one or more substitute providers just in case Red River Waste Solutions doesn't survive a reorganization plan.

Red River Waste Solutions last week filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Texas.

The bankruptcy somewhat limits the city's next steps.

It can't simply end its contractual relationship with Red River now.

The bankruptcy court over the next 120 days at least would have to approve Red River stopping service in Fort Wayne or the city trying to cut off its contract with the trash collection company.

City attorney Tim Haffner met Tuesday with Red River officials.

He says they were in Fort Wayne, but indicated they had a "scheduling conflict" that prevented them from showing up at a city council meeting that night to update the fiscal body on the company's capabilities to continue service.

In its bankruptcy filing, the company said the pandemic increased the volume of trash produced by customers in cities where they collect garbage, but that it also made it harder to hire enough workers to keep up.

It claims that situation led to cities levying fines that triggered financial troubles for Red River Waste Solutions.

The company actually has had a poor performance record regarding delayed or missed pickups since it started hauling trash with the city almost four years ago.

We asked if the bankruptcy filing hurts the city's ability to develop backup plans.

"It ties the hands in the context of attempting to renegotiate the contract or attempting to terminate the contract, we can't do that under the bankruptcy code. What we can do is evaluate opportunities in the market that may be relevant when the time comes. So there's nothing that prevents us from having conversations with other service providers," said Tim Haffner, corporate counsel for the city of Fort Wayne.

Red River was the low bidder to secure the city's trash contract in 2017. But one neighborhood leader we spoke with doesn't believe it was the best bidder.

"If you're getting three estimates and someone's estimate is so low wouldn't you question, okay, is this too good to be true, kind of, are you really able to do what I'm asking you to do? And I guess that's been my position all along when it comes to this contract that we have with Red River," said Cherise Dixie, president of the Southeast Area Partnership. She also serves on the city's Solid Waste Advisory Board.

Red River Waste Solutions released a statement Wednesday that reads, in part, "While (the company) moves through the re-structuring process as quickly as possible, it intends for its day to day operations, engagement with customers, and top notch service to continue as usual."

Republican city council member Russ Jehl has a different take on Red River's track record.

He says, "The Solid Waste Fund is over $1-million in the red and asking for a bailout and a rate increase for city trash customers. Now the contractor is bankrupt. What more of a wake-up call do we need to start getting serious about addressing our garbage mess."

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City readies for conversations with alternative trash haulers on heels of Red River bankruptcy filing - Fort Wayne's NBC

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