BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — For the past several months, Maumee city officials have been working with Republic Services, the city’s garbage and recycling contractor, to identify and rectify significant billing errors which have resulted in the city of Maumee being regularly over-billed for some of the weekly refuse services provided on behalf of its residents.
The billing errors were discovered during a city-initiated audit that began in August 2022 under the guidance of Maumee Finance Director Jennifer Harkey, who has been with the city for nearly two years.
Over the course of the past 16 months, several discrepancies were discovered concerning the correct number of households that should be receiving weekly garbage and recycling pickups from Republic Services. The audit also uncovered erroneous service to properties ineligible to receive such services at all.
Regarding the first matter, the audit uncovered several instances where the city was incurring multiple service charges for a single residential address, essentially being double billed for those properties.
More significantly, however, the audit revealed that the city has been improperly billed for garbage and recycling pickup services for several multi-unit apartment buildings, condominium associations and mobile homes. Under the terms of the city’s agreement with Republic Services, such properties are ineligible to receive city garbage and recycling pickup services because they are considered “commercial properties.”
In a phone interview with The Mirror on Friday, Harkey stated that the investigation has produced evidence of 147 duplicate billings by Republic Services. The company has agreed to issue the city payment credits backdated to October 1, 2023.
Harkey added that as of January 4, Republic has agreed to eliminate future garbage and recycling services to an additional 186 properties such as condominium associations and multi-unit apartment complexes, which have been determined to be ineligible for city-paid services under the terms of the city’s contract with the company.
A letter dated November 30, 2023, was sent by Republic Services to the owners or managers of those ineligible properties advising them of the situation and offering instructions on how they could set up a separate commercial account with Republic.
In late December, the city’s crews began collecting the city-owned toters from ineligible commercial properties, according to a statement released last week by Nancy Gagnet, the city’s new public information officer.
“Nearly 200 properties have been identified as ‘commercial-type accounts’ and have been advised to set up an account through Republic Services. Many have set up accounts, or are in the process of doing so,” the statement read.
Rochelle Bowen, the manager of municipal sales for Republic Services, recently stated that her organization has been busy setting up commercial accounts for those properties that are ineligible for Maumee residential pickup services.
“Republic Services and the city of Maumee have recently reviewed the city’s waste and recycling contract, and it has been determined that apartments and multifamily residences no longer fall under the residential collection contract,” Bowen said in a statement released in late December.
“Republic Services is happy to continue our partnership with these locations as part of a commercial account. We appreciate our partnership with the city of Maumee and thank residents for their understanding,” the statement concluded.
The city of Maumee is presently engaged in a 10-year contract with Lucas County Waste Management for refuse/recycling services provided specifically by Republic Services. The contract, which was initiated in 2016, is due to expire in 2026.
As part of the contract, the city purchased approximately 11,000 heavy-duty toters and provided two toters for every residence in Maumee. One of the toters was designated for garbage and the second was to be used strictly for recyclables. At that time, it was determined that an estimated 5,500 Maumee households would receive weekly pickup service from Republic Services.
An audit of the pickup service should have been conducted annually to ensure the pickup service was being properly administered, according to a city official familiar with the situation; however, the first audit did not happen until 2022.
Harkey confirmed that the residential list did not even exist when she started the audit process in August of 2022.
It took over a year to complete the first phase of the audit, which included verifying each eligible address, both on paper and through physical inspection by Republic Services personnel.
Thus far, the audit has confirmed a total of 5,167 legitimate residences that are eligible for garbage and recycling collection services. This figure was determined by the dismissal of the 147 duplicate addresses previously being billed as well as the 186 properties that were deemed ineligible for residential services.
As a result of the audit, a total of 333 accounts have been eliminated from future billing statements by Republic Services. There is a possibility that additional addresses will be identified as ineligible, according to a city official familiar with the process.
Garbage and recycling services cost the city approximately $70,000 per month. The service is financed primarily by city income tax revenue.
“We appreciate all residents and businesses in the city of Maumee, and we are committed to providing the very best service to our community,” said city administrator Patrick Burtch.
“Among our highest priorities is to ensure fiscal responsibility and fairness,” Burtch continued. “Although we understand that this situation may be upsetting or cause an inconvenience to some, we sincerely believe that correcting this error is the right and proper thing to do for the citizens of Maumee.”