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Town approves waste hauling contract despite recent merger

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Carbondale Trustees got a surprise last week when they found out that Mountain Waste, the town’s choice for a waste hauling contract, had merged with Canadian company Waste Connections. But, that didn’t stop them from approving the contract at their April 9 meeting.

Mayor Dan Richardson told The Sopris Sun that he didn’t know anything about the acquisition until he received an email from Trustee Erica Sparhawk last week. “I heard it from an acquaintance who heard it from a friend who works for [Mountain Waste],” Sparhawk said. “I didn’t want to spread rumors, so I immediately informed town staff,”

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Town staff found out on March 26. “Representatives of Mountain Waste came in and talked with Kevin Schwartzman, our public works director, that there was a pending sale and that they anticipated this going through,” said Jay Harrington, Carbondale Town Manager. “They also told him that they didn’t know anything about this until that Monday, the 25th.”

Scott Eden, who recently retired as result of the merger, said that he and Waste Connections had been in talks since August. He didn’t disclose plans for the acquisition to trustees because nothing was confirmed until April 2. “No one knows if you’re going to close on a transaction so is there any reason to talk about it?” he told The Sun.

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He added that his employees were also a concern. “There’s reasons why you say things to people and reasons why you can’t possibly say things to people,” he said. “I feel strongly that it’s not a good idea to tell a group of people that you work with every day that there’s a possibility that the company might be sold to someone else unless you know for a fact that it’s going to happen.”

Mike Hinkley, District Manager for Mountain Waste and Recycling, runs the local operation and provided the proposal to the Town. He said he was “shocked” when he heard about the merger. Trustees voted on the proposal on a Tuesday and Hinckley found out about the merger three days later.

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“I thought Mountain Waste and Concentric Partners were going to stay intact for a much longer period of time,” he said. “There’s a lot of activity in waste hauling companies and things happen. It was just a surprise.”

Waste Connections, a multi-billion dollar, publicly-traded corporation, is headquartered in Ontario, Canada and Houston, Texas. According to the company website, it has operations in 41 states but only one on Colorado’s West Slope. Through the merger, the company acquired Mountain Waste, which serves the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys, and services in Vail and on the Front Range.

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Trustee Lani Kitching, who said she has worked in acquisitions and mergers, speculated that perhaps this is why everyone involved in the merger was mum until the deal was done.

“A large organization like that is always looking for additional opportunities to boost their bottom line and expand their presence,” she said. “And I would have to think that that was something they were exploring while we were in negotiations this past year.”

Aaron Bradley, Divisional Vice-President for Waste Connections of Colorado, said he was not aware that Mountain Waste was in negotiations with the Town of Carbondale until Scott Eden told him about it in March. “Both parties sign a confidentiality agreement on something like this,” he told The Sun.  “A lot of these mergers and acquisitions, eight out of 10, actually never come to fruition so we want to be very sensitive to the customer base, to the employees in case we don’t come to an agreement.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Kitching asked Bradley and Hinkley questions about the merger and how it would impact services as laid out in the contract. “I got the answers I was looking for,” she said.

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The merger apparently does not affect Mountain Waste’s daily operations or staff. “From the town staff’s perspective, the contract is the same contract that was reviewed as part of the RFP process,” Harrington said. He added that customers now have more choices of waste containers.

Previously, Mountain Waste could only provide 64- or 96-gallon containers. “Because their parent company or stockholder has some additional buying power in the waste hauling world, [they are] going to now provide the 32-gallon containers, which I think will be a benefit to our program,” he said.

The Board unanimously approved the contract despite concerns raised by two citizens about cost and compost. Dave Reindel, of EverGreen ZeroWaste, was worried that his business would lose compost customers and wanted to level the playing field.

The contract goes into effect in October. Registration for the program begins in June. More information, including price tables, is available at carbondalegov.org.

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