Circuit Judge Clifton Drake denied a motion Friday afternoon from Adams Sanitation in which the company attempted to challenge elements of Santa Rosa County’s statutory franchising requirements as it relates to the collection of waste.
In its arguments, Adams Sanitation claimed it was displaced from servicing the county when commissioners signed an exclusive contract with Waste Pro in 2011. The judge denied the motion, arguing Adams was not displaced, however, because they were not in service at the time the exclusivity agreement was written.
This decision is the latest in a multi-year legal battle regarding trash pickup in the county.
Background on the state of trash in Santa Rosa County
Santa Rosa County has offered exclusive contracts for sanitation since 2011. In July 2020, Waste Pro extended its exclusive contract with Santa Rosa County until the end of 2024. But by the end of 2020, Adams Sanitation began signing up residents in northern Santa Rosa County for its service, which started Jan. 1, 2021.
Waste Pro filed its first lawsuit against Adams in November 2020, kicking off the sanitation wars. By the end of that month, Adams filed a counter-lawsuit that claimed Waste Pro’s July 2020 contract was in violation of an earlier one they had signed with the county. Eventually, the Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners granted Adams a permit to conduct service north of Yellow River, threatening Waste Pro’s exclusivity.
Granting Adams a permit highlighted the commissioners’ confusion around the sanitation franchising rules in the county, and commissioners ultimately voted to fire longtime County Attorney Roy Andrews over the issue.
Having been given a permit for the northern end of the county, Adams Sanitation then sought permission to service the southern part of the county. In 2021, the application was denied.
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Adams filed an appeal with the Board of County Commissioners for the denial of the south end permit. The appeal hearing with the county was set for Sept. 9, 2021, but the commission later notified Adams that the hearing was canceled, prompting a new lawsuit from Adams that claimed a violation of the company’s due process.
Adams began service in the south end of the county without that permit and, in mid-October 2021, Waste Pro succeeded in securing a temporary injunction that stopped Adams Sanitation from collecting trash in the south end of the county, which it began Oct. 1.
Where are we now?
In February 2022, Circuit Judge Darlene Dickey made a ruling in the lawsuit granting Adams the opportunity to appear at the Santa Rosa County appeal that was originally canceled. This appeal is related to Santa Rosa County’s decision to deny the company from conducting trash pickup service in the south end.
Dickey cited that “nothing in the code or ordinance at issue says that the applicant should be denied to appeal, even if it can be shown that the application was faulty.”
Drake’s move Friday does not change Adam’s north end service, nor does it affect Adams’ ability to have the appeal for the south end permit.
Adams’ Legal and Business Development Manager Nathan Boyles, who also is an Okaloosa County commissioner, told the News Journal on Friday after the hearing that the company is planning to go before Santa Rosa County commissioners soon for the appeal that was originally canceled and has since been granted.
In June, both companies made their pitch to the Pensacola City Council for the city to privatize its sanitation department as the council considered a garbage collection rate increase.
The council voted unanimously to hold off a decision on the proposed rate increase until August so it could thoroughly review the city’s budget and find potential cuts before raising rates.