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Date of Issue: June 14, 2007

Waste Management bill causes confusion

Holmes Beach residents want to see their waste hauled away three times a week and their bills from Waste Management arrive four times a year - not twice.

Waste Management customers in the city raised a ruckus over the refuse bills upon receiving a six-month statement, rather than a three-month statement.

City officials characterized the billing as a Waste Management computer snafu.

Waste Management, the largest trash company in North America, hauls refuse and recyclables from Holmes Beach under a contract with the city.

The complaints stem from confusion over a recent bill that’s vastly different from typical quarterly WM bills in Holmes Beach.

"I had approximately 35 calls in a day and a half," said Holmes Beach City Commissioner Pat Morton, the city liaison to Waste Management.

The recent statement billed Holmes Beach customers for six months of service, from June through November, rather than three months of service.

A bill in April covered service for April, May and June but, because rates under the new contract take effect in June, the middle of the routine billing cycle, WM adjusted the next billing statement but expanded the billing period to six months. The new rate represents a 32-cent per-month increase.

Morton said he understood residents’ concerns. "Maybe it’s not that much money, but when you have a fixed income or when you have a contract, you should stick to it," he said. "People said they didn’t want to pay six months. I don’t want to give them six months."

Morton contacted Waste Management about the complaints and officials looked into the situation, then sent customers a letter signed by WM district manager David Smith.

"The reason your most recent bill is different is because in the new contract with the city of Holmes Beach, the annual CPI rate increase is scheduled to take effect on June 1, 2007," Smith said. "When Waste Management and the city renewed the contract, we did not anticipate the rate change occurring in the middle of a normal quarterly billing cycle.

"To correct the matter, your most recent bill reflects a credit for June at the old rate and then re-bills June at the new rate," Smith continued. "Inadvertently, statements were generated for six months from June 1 through Nov. 30, instead of three months, June to August."

Morton and Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said WM indicated there was a computer glitch in the billing.

"The franchise begins June 1 and when they tried to add that to the new billing, I’m told, the computer couldn’t figure out how to do it," the mayor said.

Inquiries about statements prompted WM to offer customers options in handling the recent statement - pay the bill and be done with trash payments until Nov. 30 or call customer service at 941-753-7591 and request to pay for service through Aug. 31.

"I think we worked out a situation that was comfortable for our citizens," Morton said. "They’re giving people an option, so at least we have something we can work with."