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Oyster Bay Town officials sue yard waste contractor for $1 million

Oyster Bay Town Hall on Audrey Avenue on

Oyster Bay Town Hall on Audrey Avenue on Oct. 21, 2010. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

Oyster Bay officials are seeking $1 million in damages from a company that allegedly breached a contract to haul grass clippings, leaves and branches, forcing the town to hire another company.

Town officials allege in the suit, filed last month in state Supreme Court in Mineola, that New Jersey-based Reliable Wood Products LLC refused to pick up yard waste at the town's transfer station in Bethpage. Oyster Bay special counsel Thomas Sabellico said the company had demanded more money.

"It was clear to us that this was an economic problem that they were having," Sabellico said. "They didn't want to honor the contract, so we put them on notice they defaulted."

A call to Reliable Wood Products was referred to Harvest Power, its corporate headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts. Harvest Power did not respond to repeated calls.

This year, the town awarded the company a two-year contract to haul yard waste from residents, businesses and municipalities for composting at its New Jersey facilities.

The company agreed to haul bagged yard waste for $63.88 per ton and loose yard waste for $44.80 per ton in the first year, according to a contract dated Jan. 1 and provided by the town. Those rates would increase by $2 in the second year. The town estimated the company would haul 30,000 to 40,000 tons of yard waste each year.

In July, Reliable officials informed the town that the threshold for contaminants -- anything other than yard waste, such as regular trash -- had been breached. Under the contract, if more than 3 percent of the waste was contaminants, the vendor could either refuse to pick it up or return it at the town's expense.

Sabellico said the vendor did not seek either remedy and continued to complain about contaminants. Then last month, Sabellico said, company officials said the town would need to pay $11.22 more per ton for continued pickups. "They wanted to hold us at ransom for $75 a ton," Sabellico said.

The company stopped picking up yard waste on Aug. 20, town officials said. A disruption in pickups could have exposed the town to penalties from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, town officials said.

The town hired Babylon-based Omni Recycling at a rate of $73 per ton in a temporary emergency contract and plans to go out to bid again for a new contract.

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