When it comes to garbage, nobody does it better than Flagler Beach. Beverly Beach residents found that out quickly after their town government too hurriedly dumped its garbage contract with Flagler Beach last October and went with Waste Pro, the private contractor that provides service for Palm Coast and Flagler County.
“After one week of it, I had phone calls like you would not believe,” Beverly Beach Mayor Steve Emmett said. “And they let us know. So what we’re doing is what the public tells us they want.”
Waste Pro has had its issues with Palm Coast and Flagler County in recent years, with both governments’ elected officials getting the same sort of phone calls because of spottily shoddy service, though the company has been striving to make adjustments, shorten routes, add staff and supervisors and work with the two governments on improvement plans. But losing the contract in Beverly Beach suggests that the company’s woes in Flagler County are not ending.
Waste Pro service was generating its share of complaints in Beverly Beach–a town with about “500 residents with 200 occupied dwellings,” according to the city’s mayor–but the initial error was more the town commission’s than the garbage hauler’s. Last summer Emmett and the Beverly Beach council feared that Flagler Beach was going to raise its garbage rates 10 percent. Flagler Beach had, in fact, considered doing so. But it never went through with the plan. Despite being “very satisfied” with Flagler Beach’s garbage haulers, in Emmmett’s words, Beverly Beach voted in September 2018 to switch to Waste Pro by that November 30. Emmett informed Flagler Beach in a letter even as he thanked the city “for providing excellent customer service to the residents of Flagler Beach.”
He and his commission had jumped the gun. The Flagler Beach City Commission that very month had approved a budget–without an increase in garbage rates. Beverly Beach didn’t learn of that until a town resident informed its commissioners on Dec. 28. “This came as a shock to me and the commission,” Emmett wrote Flagler Breach Mayor Linda Provencher on the last day of the year in 2018, “and we wonder why that decision was never conveyed to us. We did not sign our contract with Waste Pro until November and would have had time to cancel the change and continue the great relationship we have enjoyed with Flagler Beach.” Then again, all it would have taken for any of Beverly Beach’s commissioners, its mayor or town clerk was one phone call, or a stroll down to Flagler Beach City Hall, to figure out that the 10 percent increase had vanished. So it was too late.
“I don’t want to say we made a mistake,” Emmett said of Beverly Beach’s mistake. “We did what we thought was right for our town in reference to finance.” He was justifying the back and forth to the Flagler Beach City Commission as Flagler Beach was preparing to take back Beverly Beach, almost no questions asked. “Bottom line was we had to make a decision as to whether get it cheaper through Waste Pro, which we did, but what we didn’t realize was that Waste Pro–”
“Plays by their own rules,” Flagler Beach City Commissioner Marshall Shupe said, finishing Emmett’s sentence at last week’s commission meeting. The Flagler Beach commissioners were gracious, merely welcoming Beverly Beach back. The contract language runs over 40 pages long, but Shupe summed it up in five words: “Whatever we get, they get.”
The only issue in the contract was its severance clause: it was initially written to call for “mutual agreement” before either side could bail.
“I don’t like the mutual agreement verbiage,” Flagler Beach Commissioner Eric Cooley said. “When we get into mutual agreements, we get into like what we have with the building.” He was referring to the city’s ongoing wrangles over the Wickline Center on South Daytona Avenue, a city-owned building that Flagler County has controlled for years, because of restrictive contractual language. “We need to have wording in there where if we need to separate, we can separate and we don’t need a mutual agreement. I do not want to be locked in on waiting on another party that keeps us, we’ll call it held hostage, for whatever reason. We need to be able to end the agreement if something crazy happens. Because we have the same issue going on now with our building, with the county.”
Commissioners agreed to include a cluase that gives Flagler Beach or Beverly Beach the right unilaterally to quit the contract with a 90-day notice.
Otherwise, “We just go back to the way it was,” Flagler Beach City Manager Larry Newsom said.