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FIRST ON 3 UPDATE: County releases R3 from garbage contract; Will cost taxpayers more to keep current system in place

READ MORE: FIRST ON 3 UPDATE: County releases R3 from garbage contract; Will cost taxpayers more to keep current system in place
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- New Hanover County gave R3 an early release from its contract to take over the county's solid waste management, County Manager Bruce Shell announced at a Friday morning news conference. R3 now forfeits a $384,000 performance bond that guaranteed its work.

The county hired GBB, a solid waste consultant in Virginia, last year for $114,209 to recommend which company it should go with to replace WasteTech. It paid $196,463 for legal counsel. It decided on R3, even though the company only existed on paper, was proposing to use technology that wasn't being used successfully anywhere else in the world, and was being run by a woman who was a local real estate developer who had absolutely no experience in waste management.

We asked Shell if he was comfortable with the recommendation he got from GBB based on the more than $300,000 the county spent to get it. "I know that GBB asked a lot of indepth questions and came to the conclusion that that it could be done," he said. "I relied on that a large part. Yes it has not been done in this particular form. I understand the technology is there. It just has not been put together in this fashion So I for one believe it could be done."

The county then contracted with R3 with the promise the company would revolutionize solid waste. Its plans included building a facility that would separate biomass from recyclables. But those plans never materialized, and the company twice asked the county for deadline extensions. Recently it notified the county that it would likely not be able to meet its April 2 deadline.

We were told R3 CEO Robin Grathwol was on her way out of town today and couldn't be at the news conference. Instead she issued this statement:

"The commissioners and staff of New Hanover County should be applauded for seeking an innovative method for managing the County’s solid waste. As evidenced by R3’s considerable investment of time and money in this endeavor, R3 believed that it had the right solution for New Hanover County. We took our commitment to develop that solution very seriously and assembled a talented team of companies and individuals to create change for this community. Ultimately, for a variety of unanticipated reasons, the task proved more challenging than anticipated and, in the end, R3 was not able to secure the funding necessary to proceed with the project. We sincerely regret that the timing was not right for us to see the project to fruition.

Local media have tried to contact Grathwol for weeks, but she has chosen not to return any phone calls.

Shell says the $384,000 performance bond only covers the $310,000 the county spent on the consultant and some other miscellaneous expenses. Otherwise, keeping WasteTech online was not budgeted for and will cost taxpayers extra money.

The county has also now hired another consultant called HDR for $29,000 to evaluate WasteTech, the company that is running the landfill and incinerator now. It wants to know what it would cost to renovate the system and come up with a preventative maintenance schedule.

Shell says he met with WasteTech employees this week to update them on the situation. He would not guarantee that all of the company's 46 employees would keep their jobs over the long run. He says WasteTech will continue to operate the best they can but will need more money to continue running.

The future of garbage removal in New Hanover County will be discussed at the next commissioners's meeting on April 4.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

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The county seems to be so

The county seems to be so head over heels with the idea of anything being "green" that they are willing to spend exorbitant amounts of the taxpayer's money. This is the reason I chose to live in Brunswick County, where the commissioners seem to be more fiscally conservative.

If New Hanover County has so much money they can throw away why don't they light the roads better.

I can certainly see

a Real Estate Developer, with no experience in waste management and no formal business plan or funding, would be the ideal candidate to head up this new venture.

Did anyone check on political campaign contributions made during the most recent electoral cycle?

why

Why are you continuing to persist on spending more money on trying to find something that can not be done.You spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and were told it,s not possible.If you would only listen to what you have been told,or is there something in it for someone.It been on the news from many states that they are have to pay of millions of dollars in bonds and loans after they hired companies that said they could do it also but left the cities and states millions in debt and with a mess trying to restart a waste collection system.You all keep putting the tax payers on the hook for more money.IT CAN NOT BE DONE

R3

Were they doing any work,if so have we giving them the $500 thousand dollars a month the county was to pay?

What do you expect?

Your elected representatives are good at spending others money - wouldn't you agree?