ONLY ON 3 UPDATE: R3 CEO Robin Grathwol – MISSING: DAY 4

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Submitted: Fri, 03/11/2011 - 1:45pm
Updated: Fri, 03/11/2011 - 4:57pm

UPDATE (3/10): Clayton Gsell, R3′s chief operating officer, called us Wednesday on behalf of Robin Grathwol to say she was very very busy, but knew we wanted to get in touch with her. It appears Grathwol asked Gsell to call us and run interference instead of calling herself. Gsell said there was not much she could say, but the company was considering issuing a statement either Friday or Saturday. But since we haven’t spoken to Grathwol ourselves, as far as we’re concerned she’s still MIA, so we’ll call it Missing – Day 4.


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – Robin Grathwol, you promised the people of New Hanover County your company, R3, would take care of their trash in a new and exciting way. You promised you’d be able to sift through it, turn some of it into energy and recycle the rest. You promised you’d eventually be able to get rid of our landfill.

Now it appears your company can’t live up to what it promised. Why can’t it meet its deadlines? Is there any new state-of-the-art equipment here to start sorting garbage installed yet? Why have you abandoned your offices? Why won’t you call the media back and answer these questions?

Robin Grathwol, you owe the people of New Hanover County an explanation…

Click here to check out the background of this story:

UPDATE (3/9): R3 told the county last week that it doesn’t think it can meet its April 2 deadline to come up with an operating plan.

County Commissioner Jason Thompson told Chad Adams on The Big Talker FM this morning that the county can’t do anything until that date. He says if R3 can’t meet the deadline, it has posted a $384,000 bond that it would have to turn over to the county.

“They’re a private business. They’re under no obligation to contact the media,” Thompson said. “I know they’re talking to our staff. Our staff can get in touch with them just about every day for the last several weeks.”

While R3 is a private company, it is also now a government contractor, which if it succeeds will be subsidized by taxpayer money.


  • SomeGuy says:

    Thanks Scott and WWAY for reporting in-depth about this issue. The entire situation of NHC’s landfill was a hot topic way back before R3 was awarded the contract, so naturally there remains an elevated level of interest in the outcome.

    While other news outlets have passed along press releases and reported on missed deadlines (or extensions), WWAY appears to be the only group that understands that at least some of their audience wants to know more. WWAY is not giving up after an unsuccessful phone call or two, and I’m looking forward to knowing what more they find.

    While maybe we all should have known that what R3 proposed was too good to be true, my concern is that the prospect of cashing in on their forfeited bond and waving goodbye to R3 may also turn out to be too good to be true.

    Finally, if that does turn out to be resolution then I respect the commissioners for protecting our interests to that extent. Re-reading GBB’s press release reminds me that there was considerable upside for the county if R3 made good on their proposal, and there could have also been considerable downside for the county if the commissioners hadn’t managed the risk as they did.

  • taxpayeriam says:

    If the tax payers are to subsidize R3 because they are a government contractor,then are doing the same for CFPUA if so why are not refinance
    the bond instead of raising rates.As to Commissioner idea for cfpua not to buy lab equipment and contract out the lab work was great,but if they did that it would cut around 6-8 high payed people off the pay roll
    and cut hundreds of thousands of dollars and they would not need the rate increase.The increase they are asking for should only be for a year to pay the bond off.100,000 customers times $5.00 for 12 months equals 6 million dollars,hope someone in our government can do the math and not allow for more increases just to keep the greedy happy.

  • Guest Apu says:

    By the way, to me it seems like WWAY is incorrectly saying that R3 is “subsidized” by taxpayers. As commonly used, a subsidy is paid out to a person or company to help stop the decline of their industry, like subsidies paid to farmers who produce a crop, where the government isn’t buying the crop, just paying the farmer an extra amount on top of what he sells it for in the open market. For these subsidies, the government doesn’t get anything in return.

    In the case of R3, the government is entering into a purchase of services agreement. A contract was put out for bid, and R3 won the contract. The county is agreeing to pay what they have deemed to be a fair price for the services to be rendered. The taxpayers aren’t paying an artificially high price (a subsidy) for the services.

    Not only that, R3 put up a bond which they forfeit if they can’t honor their obligations. That bond is the only thing they might “owe the people of New Hanover County” at this point.

  • Guest Apu says:

    I am not connected to this issue in any way – I grew up in and my family lives in Wilmington, and I still own property here, but am a resident of Charlotte. But, it’s obvious that WWAY is biased in the tone of their reporting on this issue. WWAY has a habit of personally attacking those who don’t give them interviews. Instead of objectively reporting news, they insert themselves into the stories and their “news” becomes an editorial. You ever notice that in most news report when somone isn’t giving interviews, the news says quite simply that “Jane Doe hasn’t responded to requests for interview” or “Jane Doe hasn’t returned messages left at their office.” They don’t call them out WWAY style, like schoolchildren do on the playground.

    Why would any private citizen or privately held company grant an interview to a news organization that is working their hardest to make them look bad? You’d have to be insane to open yourself up like that. You’d be walking right into an ambush.

  • Guest Apu says:

    Jason Thompson is correct. The company is a private entity and has no obligation to speak to WWAY. But WWAY tries to make it look like they should because R3 is a government contactor. R3 has simply been hired by the government to do a job. WWAY can request the documents pertaining to the contract that are in the possession of the county, but can’t go into R3 and demand anything. The only thing R3 owes the people of New Hanover County can be found in the contract. And if they don’t live up to their end of the bargain, they forfeit their bond. Case closed. WWAY, once again you look like a bully because someone is not giving you an interview. Very unprofessional.

  • Guest says:

    When has WWAY ever been professional?pu

  • Guest11221 says:

    Look out Watergate and NFL Spygate. WWAY is hot on the trail for the exclusive of Robin-Gate. More details to follow DunDunDAH!!!!

  • Guest461 says:

    …and suspect that you are somewhere interconnected with the county council yourself. WWAY is simply reporting an actual story and exposing what appears to be a “shafting” by R3 that was voted in by the county council. IF R3 was on the up-and-up, they would have NO PROBLEM answering a simple phone call!!! The taxpayers of this county have every right to know about these ongoing, behind the scenes deals being made by our so-called leaders. I’m getting tired of hearing about it because I’m tired of seeing my hard earned tax dollars being pissed away by poor judgment and crooked characters. I appreciate having a news outlet with the testicular fortitude to expose it and display to our public EXACTLY what our “leaders” and the innate results of their antics are providing us (or lack thereof…).

    If you want to talk “BULLY”, go sit down in front of Jason Thompson and disagree with him. He may just invite you out in the parking lot to, “…do what men do”. He’s used to being a big, tough guy.

    You want to talk unprofessional, just sit down in front of the etire cracker-jack county council. You’ll get a HUGE lesson in, “unprofessional”!

  • Guest says:

    I am a WWAY fan and I appreciate you digging for answers for the local citizens, but this is one of the few times I agree with Jason Thompson. It looks like R3 will not be able to produce what they promised. They will lose their bond. I don’t think they owe us anything other than to step aside and let another contractor do their thing. Demanding an on camera interview seems like trying to kick some one while their down.

  • Guest says:

    These 3 jokers voted for R3–what a mess they have created for all of us. What will this wind up costing us? More importantly, why did they show such poor judgement in voting for R3 in the first place-maybe wway3 can take a look at the tie-ins between the “missing” executive and these 3 poor politicians who serve special interests and themselves.

  • Guest54 says:

    I agree, WWAY seems to bully, maybe all there should become Prosecutors. So childish!

  • Guest says:

    This is the best example of yellow journalism I have seen in quite some time. Go WWAY!

  • Guest says:

    Why did these guys support R3 against advice of many others?
    They have failed all of us once again-they are the past that we need to vote out.

  • taxpayer says:

    voted to hire R3 because the consulting firm hired by the County recommended it. What makes no sense to me is the fact the consulting firm recommended a company and technology that had yet to be proven.

  • Guest says:

    These 3 did not ask the right questions of consultant. That was no accident. As on so many other issues they wanted the “right” choice so they failed to probe in as much detail as they should have before they voted. Many others in community were asking questions about both R3 financial viabilty and their proposal—barfield and davis and thompson could have but once again looking out for the special interest did not. They spend our money and ignore best interest of the many while helping out their special interest friends.

  • Guest says:

    I have to say that I fully support the work of WWAY.

    I’m chagrined that the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners decided to award a contract to R3.

    I’m all for “thinking outside the box” in regards to finding solutions to our waste disposal needs as well as conserving the environment.

    That being said, I find it surprising that so few people exercised a healthy dose of skepticism over R3’s “proprietary technology” and its application in New Hanover County.

    If I’m not mistaken, the ability to turn base metal in to gold was disproved long ago; R3’s alchemy seems to be left wanting, too!

    (and, of course, I will be happy to sit down and consume my serving of crow if proved wrong).

  • Guest says:

    Maybe the county should have been concerned about whether R3 would and could perform after the company covered up its continued involvement with Byrd and when two of its founders disputed the direction of the company. Maybe before Grathwol and Gsell tried to hijack the company and the idea that they should have made sure they could fly it.

  • Guest says:

    As a local here in Wilmington I have been underwhelmed by local journalism. It’s about time the local media shows some backbone and does some worthwhile reporting by exposing what really goes on with our local government. Most of these people are local developers and Realtors who all know each other and do many deals with each other. Forget party affiliation! Most residents don’t care what happens behind the scenes, and they think local government is boring. How many know all the names and backgrounds of those who serve on the County Commission, City Council or School Board? These people are making decisions for YOU!

    I, for one, am glad to see what is really going on because it directly relates to my future as a local here. I hope you keep it up WWAY. This project needs to be exposed for us all to see. For too long, this area has been controlled by developers who have no consequences and think they can get away with whatever they want. It’s time for citizens to get involved in government, so we have some oversight. There are no real checks and balances for these people, but if the media can start to serve that purpose and locals can be the watchdogs, they will not be able to get away with it. Democracy at it’s best!

  • Guest678 says:

    OK. R3 fails and turns over a 384k bond to NHC. What did NHC lose? Other than time? NHC employees continue to operate the landfill and incinerator like they have for years. I don’t see why this is “such a big mess”. We move on to another contractor who can handle the job. Am I missing something? Is there some conspiracy where some one had something to gain from R3? All I see so far is a contractor who could not honor their contract.

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