Mayor, City Council Go Back-and-Forth On Garbage Problems

Aug 24, 2018

Credit Zach Bernard/WBOI News

As members of Fort Wayne City Council prepared to introduce a resolution citing the city’s solid waste management contractor Red River in breach of contract, Mayor Tom Henry is once again emphasizing support for the company.

Henry called Red River’s learning curve “significant,” but noted that the best course for the city right now is to collaborate with the company to make improvements.

“What has happened is unacceptable," said Henry. "We will work, though, with Red River to find the solutions to improve the service and to make it the best possible waste program that we can as far as the removal and recycling of your products.”

More important, though, are legal implications of citing Red River for breach of contract.

A declaration for material default -- essentially ending the contract for failure to meet standards -- has only been legally upheld in Indiana when contractors abandoned their jurisdictions entirely or failing to meet payroll, neither of which apply to Red River.

“This resolution does not result in any formal action being taken by City Council," said city attorney Carol Helton. "It’s merely the statement of the view of certain City Council members and members who may sign this resolution.”

One of those members is at-large councilman Michael Barranda. The measure was still presented, even though he knows Council’s vote won’t result in direct termination of Red River’s contract. He says that's not even the direct goal, he just believes the body should take a strong position.

“I think people time and time again have tried to get the mayor and the administration’s attention that they believe that Red River is not performing under the contract," Barranda said.

"That’s what this resolution does is try to bring that front and center and let folks say, ‘Look, we believe there’s been a breach mayor, will you enforce the contract?’”

City Council proceeded to discuss the measure for two hours Tuesday night, eventually voting in favor of establishing the position 6-2. Councilman John Crawford said the long conversation changed his vote.

“This level of service is simply not acceptable," said Crawford. "If it’s not material breach, does this mean we have to accept this for seven years if it’s not a breach?”

The next steps in the process are unclear at this time.