ZURIK: Kenner claims IV Waste overbilled residents millions of dollars

Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 4:52 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The city of Kenner says trash collector IV Waste has improperly billed taxpayers $2.5 million and owes the city another $2 million in liquidated damages for missing pickups on Thanksgiving Day. Kenner and IV Waste are now locked in a legal battle.

Much of the disagreement involves a residential waste and debris drop-off site. IV Waste says it used its own funds to build the site, which was intended as a reimbursable advance by the city. IV Waste claims the city is solely responsible for the costs of all improvements to the site.

However, a video posted on YouTube from June 2020 showed IV Waste owner Sidney Torres and former Mayor Ben Zahn introducing the drop-off site to residents. In that video, both say IV Waste will pay for the site, at no cost to taxpayers.

“Sidney, we’ve gotten estimates before that on our bill, the taxpayers’ bill, the city of Kenner, it would be close to do something like this, a facility like this. Can you please share how much you actually invested on your dollar, not the taxpayers?” Zahn asks.

“Well, this is the thing, I’m a general contractor by trait, so I know what it takes to build a site, and because I had to pay for it, Mayor, I made sure that we budgeted right and we ended up investing about $300,000 to build this site and we built it in 30 days,” Torres replies.

IV Waste now claims Kenner owes the company money for the site.

IV Waste also charged Kenner $350 for every container filled at the drop-off site. FOX 8 investigations in 2022 showed IV might have been overbilling Kenner and its taxpayers.

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Examples included January 16, 2022, when FOX 8′s undercover camera showed only eight cars went into the drop-off site to unload trash. However, that same day, IV Waste claimed the eight residents filled up six 30-yard containers with their yard debris or trash.

On November 12, 2021, IV charged Kenner for dumping 14 separate 30-yard roll-off containers, even though only 12 residents dropped off debris and trash at the site that day.

When entering the site, residents must sign their names on a sheet and prove their residency. FOX 8 reached a few of the residents by phone and most said they hauled the items to the site in a pickup truck or small trailer.

IV essentially claimed each resident brought enough trash to fill up more than one of the large containers. However, despite billing for 14 containers, IV only had documentation to show it dumped two of the containers at the landfill. It’s unclear why IV charged Kenner for the additional 12 containers that day.

Zurik investigation: Kenner Documents released
Zurik investigation: Kenner Documents released

The recent court filing by Kenner referenced FOX 8′s prior stories and says those reports show “IV Waste is improperly charging the city $350 per container that either do not exist or are not filled to capacity.”

Kenner Mayor Mike Glaser says the filing aims to get the city and IV Waste on the same page for billing.

“Well, the end game is to get the billing to the correct level he should be billing us. It’s not to get rid of any services and not to get rid of IV waste. It’s to get it back to what we the contract says we pay for the services,” Glaser said.

All totaled, Kenner claims IV Waste improperly billed taxpayers $1.1 million in roll-off container charges.

FOX 8′s prior stories also showed IV Waste charged Kenner for contaminated recycling removal.

IV Waste claimed Kenner residents mixed trash with their recycling, which meant it couldn’t be taken to a Baton Rouge recycling facility. For some months highlighted in our stories, IV Waste didn’t bring any recycling to the facility, claiming every piece picked up in the city of Kenner was contaminated.

Kenner says IV Waste billed the city nearly $150,000 for hauling contaminated recycling. Glaser questions how IV Waste determined whether recycling was contaminated.

“When he picks up recycling from the curb, he owns it. But he takes it to our public works yard, dumps it on the ground, and one of his employees magically says ‘this stuff is contaminated, this recycling isn’t.’ Contaminated goes in a roll-off container, he takes it to a River Birch landfill and charges us the recycling. He puts it in a container and trucks it off to a recycling plant in Baton Rouge and charges again, per roll-off,” Glaser said.

Glaser says recycling at the drop-off site will now be handled by its former collector, The Ramelli Group. He says he’ll continue to fight with IV Waste in order to get a seven-figure refund for taxpayers.

“It’s significant money when you talk to me. Because we could have used $2 million in a lot of other places in the city of Kenner, other than an IV waste’s bank account,” Glaser said. “I’m going to save the taxpayers money whenever I can. Like I said before, people don’t care who picks up their trash as long as it’s picked up, and at a reasonable rate.”

FOX 8 reached out to IV Waste for comment. The company released the following statement:

“While IV Waste is making every effort to continue to provide reliable waste services to Kenner residents, it has become clear that Mayor Glaser is intent on violating the city’s contractual obligations in order to give one of his biggest political donors a no-bid contract. Nearly 80% of Kenner residents rate services IV Waste provides as Excellent or Good, but the mayor is ignoring the best interest of taxpayers in order to return political favors and settle political scores.”

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