By Allen Edmonds
Despite her insistence that Belton is “not following Raymore,” the Belton City Council in a special meeting Thursday night approved City Manager Alexa Barton’s resolution cancelling its citywide solid waste and recycling collection contract with Jim’s Recycling “without cause.”
And like Raymore, the Belton Council OK'd the proposal unanimously, with no discussion. The city will now have 60 days, under the “without cause” clause in its contract with Jim’s to find a replacement vendor. The council also authorized Barton to do whatever necessary to provide collection services should Jim’s not fulfill its contractual obligation to serve the city through July 15.
The same resolution authorized city staff to spend more than half a million dollars on containers, which will be owned by the city and distributed to residents. Those residents will pay the city "rent" on the containers, in addition to paying for solid waste service.
Ward 3 Councilmember Stephanie Davidson said that prior to Thursday’s meeting, attorney Padraic Corcoran, an associate with Williams & Campo, P.C., of Lee’s Summit, gathered her and three other councilmembers and warned them not to participate in any public discussion of the contract issue with Jim’s. Corcoran has been serving as the city’s outside cancel since the departure of City Attorney Megan McGuire.
“We were told that since we were exercising the ‘without cause’ clause, giving causes publicly could result in a lawsuit and we could be sued individually,” Davidson said. “I let my frustration be known.”
Davidson said, “I am fuming. I promised people yesterday that I would take their questions and answer them tonight,” she said, following the meeting.
Meanwhile, Mayor Jeff Davis clammed up when asked after the meeting for the reason the contract was cancelled.
Barton interrupted, but was told the opinion of the elected mayor was being sought. She had already spent more than 30 minutes reading a prepared statement and showing local news videos regarding recycling challenges following the vote.
“I can’t answer that,” Davis said. When asked why not, Barton interrupted again, saying “because I won’t let him.” Davis remained silent.
Barton then continued, saying the decision was made “because they weren’t a good fit.”
Recent problems with Jim’s Disposal began on April 26, when the the company sent written communication to both Belton and Raymore, stating that for the time being, recycling would not be delivered to a recycling center but taken to a landfill because of the rising costs associated with the program.
Belton issued a release to citizens explaining the communication and promising to continue negotiating with the vendor resume recycling. Raymore, however, issued a release later that day, saying the Belton situation had created “confusion,” and that Raymore had met with Jim’s and insisted the recycling program continue. According to Raymore Assistant City Manager Mike Ekey, the vendor had agreed to continue with the recycling program.
Belton, meanwhile, did not commit, stating only that negotiations would continue.
In fact, the contract signed by Jim’s in 2017 with both Belton and Raymore requires only that the company pick up and provide weights for solid waste, recycling material and yard waste. It did not specify what the company do with it.
Late last week, Raymore released its agenda for Monday’s meeting, which included an $800,000 purchase of new solid waste and recycling containers to be distributed to residences. The city-owned containers, the agenda item said, would give the city more flexibility in changing vendors.
Belton did not address the issue in its meeting Tuesday, but on Wednesday of this week, announced a special meeting for Thursday with one agenda item – a vote on a resolution to terminate the contract with Jim’s Disposal “without cause” and to purchase solid waste collection carts at a price tag of $550,000.
Davis opened the meeting with a reading of the resolution, then called for the vote, asking for discussion. When there was no response from any of the eight councilmembers, he asked for the vote, which passed unanimously.
Following the vote, Barton read from a prepared statement describing the current state of the recycling industry, then showed a number of local television news videos covering the issue. During the presentation, she insisted that Belton was acting independently of Raymore on the issue. In all, the presentation lasted more than a half hour.
Davis then again called for a vote on the matter. When told the vote had already occurred, he misunderstood and repeated his call, creating confusion on the dais.
The council chamber was approximately 3/4 full with citizens. Davis told the gallery that their questions would be fielded by councilmembers privately following the meeting, rather than in public.