Brome Lake residents bemoan new waste pickup company

By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative

A new waste pickup provider in the Town of Brome Lake has already drawn the ire of residents, as garbage bins have been left untouched for several weeks, as well as recycling and compost.

Mayor Richard Burcombe said the town had no choice but to select the new supplier under provincial law. Ricova, a residual and recyclable materials management company, took over from Matrec at the end of December, but their services have left much to be desired.

Burcombe told Brome County News that Matrec held the town’s waste pickup contract for almost an entire decade. They normally bid unopposed, he explained, but this year Ricova made a surprising pitch with a significantly lower contract, which the town couldn’t refuse.

“The company that bid against Matrec, Ricova, they were $690,000 cheaper over three years than Matrec, so under the government law for municipal contracts, anything over $125,000 we are obliged, by law, to accept the lowest bidder, if the bid conforms,” said Burcombe.

Ricova provided all of the necessary information and met all of the requirements, so Burcombe was left with no other option. However, the mayor is aware of the amount of garbage piling up recently on curb sides across town. He has began legal proceedings to solve the issue.

“The ball is in their court now, but I mean the population has to understand it has nothing to do with the elected officials, the town, administration, or anything, we’re obliged by law to accept the lowest bidder on any contract over $125,000,” Burcombe said.

According to Burcombe, he has been in constant communication with Ricova, speaking to representatives every day of the week. He said the company sent out four trucks on Monday to deal with the garbage build up, and the compost will also be taken care of this week.

If the situation continues to deteriorate, Burcombe is not afraid to go to court or find ways to terminate the contract. He also wants residents to understand that the town didn’t make this decision to save money. The goal is to always provide the best service at the best price.

“The law puts us in a predicament because let’s say we can cancel the contract, that’s alright, but what happens if we can’t get Matrec back, and it’s going to be an increase of $690,000 to the taxpayers for the service. The government has put municipalities in that position,” he said.

Robert Paterson, a Knowlton resident, said that Monday was the first day in nearly three weeks that Ricova actually stuck to the pickup schedule. He finds it concerning that under provincial law the town needs to re-tender its waste management contract every three years.

“The company we had before, Matrec, did an absolutely excellent job. They were always on time, drivers were very careful, their equipment looked immaculate. It was a really first-class three years we had,” said Paterson in a phone interview.

He added that he’s sympathetic to the town’s decision, seeing as they were effectively forced to choose the lowest bid, and he understands why the law exists in the first place. Paterson hopes Ricova will shape up quickly, otherwise he suspects the town will go to court.

“This is an enormous amount of money and so for me, I only learned that after 10 days of them being up to two to three days late on every pick up and leaving bins all over the place, very untidy, messy, late, sloppy and in old, shabby looking equipment,” Paterson said.

In a statement to The Record, Ricova said its employees are adjusting to a new territory, adding that the absence of street lights in certain sectors has led to complications with collecting garbage when its dark outside. The pandemic has also been an issue.

“We sometimes experience delays beyond our control […] numerous outbreaks of COVID-19, despite all our efforts in occupational health and safety, add to the already existing pressure due to the shortage of manpower throughout Quebec,” Ricova said in its statement.

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