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Garbage hauler abruptly cancels contract to collect trash in Brookhaven, Smithtown

A sanitation worker picks up garbage in Brookhaven

A sanitation worker picks up garbage in Brookhaven in 2012. Town officials said garbage collection stayed on schedule Thursday. Credit: James Carbone

The year 2020 is off to a trashy start in Brookhaven and Smithtown.

Trash pickup affecting thousands of residents in several communities is in question after trash and recycling hauler Quick-Way Sanitation abruptly pulled out of its multiyear agreement with both towns.

Brookhaven and Smithtown officials said Wednesday that they were blindsided with a notice on Tuesday that the Ronkonkoma-based carter would no longer honor its contract to collect residential trash in several areas, effective immediately.

Officials at Quick-Way did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment. 

Officials in both towns said they have arranged for other carters to make the pickups.

Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said officials have “no clue” what prompted the move.

“It’s bizarre. It happened out of nowhere,” she said Wednesday. 

And at a terrible time, she added.

“The first week of January is always the busiest” for pickup, Garguilo said, with holiday packages and food waste going out to the curb.

Officials in both towns said the stoppage includes parts of Shoreham, Rocky Point, Port Jefferson Station, Farmingville, East Patchogue, Manorville, St. James and the Pines.

The disruption affects about 20 percent of the trash carting districts in Brookhaven and about 7,100 households in Smithtown, officials said. A spokesman for Brookhaven Town could not say how many households or residents are affected. Brookhaven is Suffolk’s largest town, with a population of nearly 500,000.

Brookhaven officials said they intend to pursue legal options, and Smithtown is investigating a possible breach of contract, officials said.

Quick-Way was one year into a multiyear contract with Brookhaven. Town officials said the company was the successful bidder for residential refuse and recycling services. Brookhaven officials announced Wednesday that they have added new carters such as Colucci Carting to pick up trash on Thursday morning and recyclables on Saturday as part of an emergency contingency plan.

“We have lined up coverage for garbage pickup in the seven affected garbage collection areas,” Town Councilman Dan Panico said in a Facebook post. “The companies coming in will be new to your roads, and their routes, so please be patient.”

Garguilo said the town council has a tentative agreement with a replacement hauler and has scheduled a special 11 a.m. board meeting on Thursday to make the appointment.

Quick-Way hauled garbage for about 7,100 households in solid-waste collection districts 4 and 7, covering neighborhoods in St. James and the Pines.

It terminated its contract with a one-sentence email, and top town officials got the news Tuesday during a swearing-in ceremony for town council members and the town tax receiver.

Mike Engelmann, Smithtown’s solid waste coordinator, said he got the email from Quick-Way shortly before noon Tuesday and that it said only that the company would no longer be able to perform services under its existing contract.

It was so short and explained so little that “I thought it was a spam email,” Engelmann said in an interview Wednesday.

The company was in the last year of a seven-year contract worth about $847,000, and Engelmann said it had been performing its duties “with no issue.”

Within hours after verifying that the email was genuine, Engelmann said he spoke with Brothers Waste Services, one of three other companies the town uses for residential pickup. Brothers will fill in under an emergency procurement contract the town council is expected to vote on Thursday morning.

Engelmann said their bill will be about $32,000 higher than Quick-Way’s, though town lawyers may seek damages from the company.

Residents in the affected areas should see no impact to service except perhaps slower pickups as Brothers drivers familiarize themselves with new routes, he said. Collection in District 4 is Thursday; collection in District 7 is Friday.

The last day of the year — normally a quiet time to catch up on paperwork — was instead a “blur” of meetings and phone calls with Brookhaven counterparts and Smithtown and Brothers officials, Engelmann said. “This was not welcome news, but I think we’re navigating it.”

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