The Oak Ridge North City Council voted to continue a partnership with Waste Management at its June 27 regular meeting.

The new contract includes an amendment that increases the base rates for customers by 10.2%.

Tiana Smith, public sector solutions manager for Waste Management, said the increase accounts for inflation, and it will allow the city to maintain the same level of service.

“Yes, that’s probably more than a normal year,” Smith said. “But as we all know, this is not a normal year.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the average amount of waste per household has increased by 15 pounds, she said. Smith said this is due to the increase in individuals working from home.

“If you were to take that 15 pounds and do that over 100 homes ... you’re talking about an additional ton. That’s a lot of trash,” Smith said.

The load means labor and fuel prices for Waste Management go up as additional trips to the landfill are needed. Smith said the increase in the amendment was calculated using a formula that sees a percentage decrease as a possibility.

With the amendments, residents will see their cost increase to $16.91 a month for one pickup per week standard residential service, she said.

The new contract will also include a switch from diesel fuel to compressed natural gas. Smith said CNG has not been affected as harshly as diesel fuel by market fluctuations. She added that the Conroe hauling district, of which Oak Ridge North is a part, is working towards a switch to renewable natural gas, which is even more stable than CNG. The Houston hauling district already uses RNG.

Councilman Alex Jones, who also serves as mayor pro tempore, said he has heard numerous complaints from residents about bad service and asked Smith if there will be any recourse for that in the new contract.

“I just want to hear it from y’all— will you do a better job this time or will we have another five-year contract that says, ‘We’ll be there when we get there and you’ve got to give us a thousand tries to get it right?’” Jones asked.

Outgoing Public Sector Solutions Manager Terry Woodson said that Waste Management can provide the city with a monthly report of service as a part of the new contract. The amended contract passed with Jones as the only opposing vote.

Other updates

City manager Heather Neeley told the council that they will be able to take over the former Robinson Road Community Center July 1, as the center passed asbestos inspections. The property will be the home of a new Robinson Road expansion. The city has not yet announced a date for the demolition.

The council also unanimously voted to approve two land purchases— the first of no more than $110,000 for a piece of property owned by North Place Church and the second of $44,049.59 for the purchase of 27418 Robinson Road.