Just shy of four years since the county was first sued by their former solid waste services provider over disputes involving the transfer station property located at Five Points Road in Port St. Joe, the case against the Board of County Commissioners has been dismissed.
County Administrator Micahel Hammond announced the news to a crowded administration room during the board’s Feb. 28 meeting, just two days before the case between Waste Pro of Florida and the county commissioners was officially closed.
“Seldom does the county attorney call me at the house late at night to give me good news, but we were scheduled today for mediation on the Waste Pro lawsuit that’s four years, roughly, old,” Hammond told the commissioners. “And I’m pleased to say that the county attorney has successfully won that case. They have agreed to dismiss, and I agreed on your behalf to dismiss our countersuit.”
The dismissal follows years of persistent, back-and-forth litigation between the two parties.
The initial lawsuit, which was first brought against the county in June of 2019, followed the county’s termination of Waste Pro as their solid waste services provider in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.
According to Waste Pro’s initial complaint in the case, as part of their contract with the county, which was awarded in 2014, the solid waste company was “required to construct, finance and complete the new County transfer station facility on the [C]ounty identified landfill site acreage (Five Points Landfill Site).”
A waste transfer station is a site where recyclables and refuse, such as construction debris, are collected and sorted in preparation for processing or landfill.
This facility, which was constructed by the company after significant delay, was completed in 2016.
A service agreement between the two parties stipulated that should the contract between Waste Pro and the county be terminated, the county was to be given the “ exclusive option for the County to purchase the (transfer station) facility to the County for the residual net book value at the time of transfer.”
In the service agreement, this value was estimated to be $600,000, a number which the county, in their motion to dismiss Waste Pro’s complaint, stated that they had been willing to pay.
But the contractor alleged that this number had ended up being much higher. When the contract was not renewed on June 1, 2019, the sum remained unpaid.
Waste Pro’s complaint goes on to state that the total costs incurred for the construction and operation of the transfer station facility exceeded $1 million, which they would seek in damages.
Alleging six counts against the county, including breach of contract, the solid waste company filed suit in Gulf County District Court.
The county denied that the cost of constructing the transfer station exceeded $1 million. Further, in a motion to dismiss Waste Pro’s lawsuit, the county claimed that while documentation between the parties provided for the option to purchase the transfer station, it did not make doing so mandatory.
“… the Services Agreement neither obligates the County to purchase the transfer station nor contains any agreement showing that the option was exercised,” the motion reads.
Over the course of the next three and a half years, the county would file a counter suit, and the parties would spend several years entering evidence of each of their cases before spending almost a year attempting to reach mediation beginning April, 2022.
The case was officially dismissed with prejudice on March 1, meaning it cannot be brought before the court again by either party. Each party was responsible for their own attorney’s fees.
“I’m glad it’s over for the county. It shouldn’t have been brought,” County Attorney Jeremy Novak said at the Feb. 28 meeting. “But fortunately now we have a fantastic transfer facility that the county is running. It is state of the art. It’s a good facility. There’s a lot to be proud of.”