A pending lawsuit against Lafayette Consolidated Government led to a bizarre turn of events at Tuesday’s council meeting during which Councilman Brandon Shelvin directed city-parish attorney Mike Hebert to craft an ordinance that would exempt Lafayette residents who don’t use the city’s curb-side recycling program to not have to pay the $2.30 per month fee attached to their Lafayette Utilities System bill.

The curb-side recycling program is conducted through a contract with the Recycling Foundation. Progressive Waste Solutions of LA, the company that was granted a permit to build a waste transfer station off Sunbeam Lane in Shelvin’s district last year — a permit that was rescinded by a unanimous vote of the council, leading to IESI filing suit against LCG and the council — is the parent company of the Recycling Foundation. About 37,000 households in the city of Lafayette are included in the contract, although only about half take advantage of it.

“I don’t think — and it’s my opinion — that a vendor who is currently seeking punitive damages against this body of government should continue to get any type of profit from this government,” Shelvin said Tuesday in opening remarks on the discussion item.

The problem is, as Hebert explained, the Recycling Foundation’s contract with LCG runs into 2016 and the company has done nothing to breach the contract. There are no escape clauses. That led to a lengthy discussion on exempting our Luddite neighbors who don’t recycle from having to pay the fee.

Pope noted that the Recycling Foundation couldn’t afford to provide the service if its revenue were cut in half. “They could not survive if it were a subscription service,” Pope said.

Shelvin was swayed by neither evidence nor logic, telling the city-parish attorney, “I want an ordinance that will stop people that do not participate in recycling, that will stop them from having to pay that fee,” he said. “And if we can legally do that, I want it prepared for the next available meeting.”

At one point, facing a fusillade of reasons why LCG cannot prematurely end its contract with the Recycling Foundation, Shelvin’s frustration percolated to the surface. Pope, pointing out that the RF has conducted itself professionally and the recycling program is well-run, referred to the company as “a good corporate citizen,” at which Shelvin shot back, “They’re not a good corporate citizen — they’re suing us!”

“As far as providing the recycling services, Mr. Shelvin. They’re good at that; they’re professional at that,” Pope replied flatly.

“This is purely a matter of people suing us and making money off of us,” Shelvin commented.

Councilman Keith Patin was clearly perturbed by Shelvin’s legislative prerogatives. “I see this as not so much people paying for a service they’re not receiving as people electing not to participate in something they’re paying for anyway,” he said, asking Billy Guidry of Allied Waste, which has the solid-waste disposal contract with LCG, to estimate how much more it would cost his company to haul trash to the landfill if that waste stream included the roughly 5,500 tons of recyclable material the Recycling Foundation is currently collecting.

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