Waste Management's Fee Hike

Annemarie DonkinBy Annemarie Donkin      July 24, 2020

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Waste Management's Fee Hike
When customers in Topanga received their Waste Management bills on July 1, many were surprised to find their trash collection fees had increased dramatically, in some cases by $60-$70. In 2018, the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works awarded a new seven-year contract to Waste Management for trash pick-up, recycling, and green waste collection services. “Universal Waste Systems was the previous waste hauler for the Santa Monica Mountains Residential Franchise,” wrote Neonika Walker, Community Engagement Manager, Los Angeles County Public Works. “The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors awarded the Santa Monica Mountains Residential Franchise contract to Waste Management on January 30, 2018 and services under this new contract started on April 1, 2018,” she wrote via email. After the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works determined that the fee hike was unauthorized, customers received an email notice from Sheila Kuehl’s office: “Good morning all, I am writing to provide an update that we received from our Department of Public Works (DPW) on the Waste Management (WM) fee increase situation,” the letter stated. “DPW has determined that WM did not receive the proper consent for this fee increase. It was therefore concluded that WM made an error in their billing. WM will be contacting every customer who was charged the additional amount to explain the mistake and issue a corrected bill. Our office and DPW will continue to monitor this situation to ensure appropriate action is taken. We will be sure to update you if there are any further developments on the matter. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out. We thank you for your diligence in bringing this problem to our attention.” Yet, after much pressure from the public and hundreds of calls and emails to local officials, Waste Management issued a statement to its customers: “Dear Valued Waste Management Customer, effective immediately, we are reversing the amount charged for the Difficult To Service surcharge on your July 1, 2020, invoice. This surcharge was mistakenly added to your bill. You will receive a new invoice with the revised amount due. If you have already paid the July 1 invoice, we will credit the difference to your account. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. If you have any questions, please contact us at (800) 675-1171 or visit us online at https://www.wm.com. Thank you for being a valued Waste Management customer.” Regardless of the assurances from WM, outrage rang through the Canyon as folks reacted to the unauthorized billing. Asked if she would pay the bill and wait for a refund, one of the most outspoken residents, T. Olivia Ferrari, wrote that in no way would she pay the bill. “It is highway robbery in the first place and in the second, this company seems to have all sorts of problems with the canyon; our streets are too narrow, the trees hang too low. Right now they have implemented a sort of “concierge” service (at no extra cost ...they say) to haul all of the cans on our street out to Topanga Canyon Boulevard so that trucks can empty them and then later, another concierge comes by and puts them all back,” she wrote via email. “It’s not cost effective and it’s not practical to have these larger City style trucks on our sensitive vintage streets. As an aside, but related, other companies used to be able to bid every year and this kept things competitive, but now it is only WM. What the hey?! WM has only ever given us average service while raising the amounts charged over imaginary improvements.”
Annemarie Donkin

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