Monday, October 14, 2013
Help Me Howard: City Chooses Garbage Company
If you run a business, you have to pay someone to pick up your garbage. But what if the city said you can't hire the company you want to hire? That you have to hire one of the companies we tell you to hire, even if they charge a lot more than the company you want to hire. Is that legal? It's why one woman called Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser, to get the answer.
WSVN -- If you own a car, or a couch, Sherri Villacreses' company might have provided some of the materials.
Sherri Villacreses: "An upholstery shop for both cars and furniture. We use vinyl, leather, textiles; carpet headliner material, all textile material."
Saint Peter's Upholstery was in Hollywood for 34 years, and last year moved to the city of West Park.
Sherri Villacreses: "Yeah, we like it."
Then Sherri tried to renew her occupational license, and wasn't left in stitches.
Sherri Villacreses: "There was a letter with the renewal stating that we had to change our garbage company with a specific company that the city wanted us to use."
Turns out the city requires businesses to hire Waste Management or Republic Services, Inc. to pick up the garbage. Sherri has had a contract with Ace Waste Services for years.
Sherri Villacreses: "Oh, they are perfect. We love them. They are always on time; they have good service."
Sherri was told Ace could pick up at her business if they paid the city a fee, but Ace didn't want to pay thousands for one customer, and if Sherri didn't break her contract with Ace Waste, the city gave her more bad news.
Sherri Villacreses: "Stating we had to use one of their two selected service companies, and if we didn't choose one of them they couldn't renew our licenses, which means we couldn't be in business."
America is a capitalist country, where a person is free to chose to shop or buy from any company they want. At least that's what Sherri thought.
Sherri Villacreses: "Well, I think that we should have a choice to pick who we would like to pick up garbage, and not be forced by the city telling us what we have to do as far as that goes."
An Ace Waste official gave Sherri a state law that says a business that has recovery or recycling materials like textiles can use any company for disposal they want. The city official she showed it to was not impressed.
Sherri Villacreses: "Obviously I'm upset, especially when you go to the city and you ask them if there is anything that can be done. [They] just won't work with you. When we show them the state statute, they just won't listen to you."
Well, Howard, can a government agency force you to break a contract with one company and hire the company they chose that, by the way, had to pay the city a large fee to operate in their boundaries?
Howard Finkelstein: "When it comes to water, cable, garbage, cities can pick who operates and even force them to pay the city a fee, but here is the loophole Sherri tried to show a government official: The Florida legislature forces cities to allow taxpayers to hire any waste company they want, if more than 90 percent of the businesses' waste can be recycled. Sherri's company falls into that category, so she can hire whoever she wants."
We contacted the city manager for West Park. He told us Sherri misunderstood the policy, that their law is for garbage and bulk trash services, not recovery materials. Apparently he didn't know that Sherri had explained that she had recovery materials to another city official, and he ignored the state law, but the city manager corrected it. Sherri can continue to use the waste company she chooses, and has also been given her occupational license.
Howard Finkelstein: "If a city or county blocks you from doing something, check the state laws. If the state law contradicts the city law, the state law always wins out."
It's good news for Sherri, whose occupational license was renewed by the city, and she kept the same waste removal company she has had for years.
Sherri Villacreses: "Yes, I'm so happy I contacted Help Me Howard, and thanks for getting the job done."
What's that old line? Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you? Sometimes it's just getting in touch with the right person, like the West Park city manager who quickly got it resolved. That's what we did, and that can work for you as well. If you think one city or county official is making a mistake, move up the chain of command. It works.
Troubles trashing your temperament? Recycling solutions that don't work? You are free to choose who you want, so dump it in our laps and let us clean things up. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.
For more information on waste laws:
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
E-mail: email@example.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org