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Oyster Bay, Winters Bros. reach deal for vendor to end its recycling contract

Town opts not to exercise contract extension option and take on expense of litigation after waste company said market changes in China made honoring deal "challenging." 

The contract between the Town of Oyster Bay

The contract between the Town of Oyster Bay and Winter Bros. Hauling of Long Island included options for the town to extend the contract for up to four years. Photo Credit: Winter Bros

Oyster Bay’s recycling vendor will honor its contract until the end of the year, and the town will not exercise options to extend the contract under an agreement passed Tuesday by the town board.

Town officials and the West Babylon-based waste company Winters Bros. Hauling of Long Island had announced the agreement last month after the company had threatened to pull out of the contract early due to market changes.

The agreement “takes into consideration legal costs that we would have been forced to pay to litigate this,” Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said at the board meeting ahead of the vote.

Under the contract entered into last year, Winters Bros. paid the town $25.08 per ton of recycling waste that it picked up from the town’s transfer station. The contract included options for the town to extend the contract for up to four years.

“The contract was a great deal for the town of Oyster Bay,” Winters Bros. vice president William Flower said Wednesday. “Because of an unforeseen circumstance … it became a contract that was financially challenging to complete. However, we said we would complete it through the natural term of the contract.”

Winters Bros. argued that China’s decision to stop accepting many recycled materials and the subsequent market disruption constituted an unforeseeable event that made it impossible to honor the contract. Flower said that the company used to be able to sell one ton of paper for recycling for about $80 per ton, but that it now only gets about $5 per ton.

Town officials said they will look into alternatives to handling recycling in 2019.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Sea Cliff resident Arthur Adelman, 67, told the board that it was “very distasteful” that the company was getting out of the contract because of market conditions rather than a natural disaster.

“What they're faced with is a simple problem of supply and demand,” Adelman said.

Town Attorney Joseph Nocella said the town disagreed with the company’s position but that a negotiated settlement was the best option.

“We were headed toward litigation,” Nocella said. “If we got into litigation, service would have stopped.”

Nocella said it was “questionable” whether the town could exercise its options to extend the contract without Winters Bros.’ consent.

“The law is unsettled in this area and they could have a powerful case that they do not have to perform merely because we exercised an option,” Nocella said.

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