Knoxville non-profit music school's trash pickup bill doubles

Knoxville non-profit music school's trash pickup bill doubles over 3 years

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The Joy of Music School is a non-profit that provides free music lessons to financially disadvantaged and at-risk kids. The Joy of Music School is a non-profit that provides free music lessons to financially disadvantaged and at-risk kids.
School business manager Russ Fuquay showed us three years of invoices from Waste Management, the company that has picked up their trash for more than six years. School business manager Russ Fuquay showed us three years of invoices from Waste Management, the company that has picked up their trash for more than six years.
In January 2010, $173 dollars was the monthly bill. As the years went by, the expense of picking up the trash at the school went up dramatically. In January 2010, $173 dollars was the monthly bill. As the years went by, the expense of picking up the trash at the school went up dramatically.
"They make a lot of money doing this for a lot of people. We don't make any money. We're a non profit," Executive Director Frank Graffeo explained "They make a lot of money doing this for a lot of people. We don't make any money. We're a non profit," Executive Director Frank Graffeo explained
After a call from 6 on Your Side, Waste Management credited the school three months on their bill and renegotiated a far more favorable three-year contract. After a call from 6 on Your Side, Waste Management credited the school three months on their bill and renegotiated a far more favorable three-year contract.
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By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Prices for goods and services go up from year to year. The cost of an apartment or electricity is always rising. Last year, the average cost of living increase was just under two percent.

However, leaders from a local non-profit music school were shocked when the cost of their trash pickup service doubled within only three years.

If you work in a building, trash pickup is a vital service because it can pile up from week to week, especially if there are a lot of people in your building every day.

Most companies rent dumpsters, but if your business is on a tight budget, you'll start asking questions if a monthly bill of $170 three years ago jumps to $400.

Once a day, Russ Fuquay disposes the trash at the Joy of Music School. The dumpster was formerly picked up twice a month, but is now only picked up once.

The school is a non-profit that provides free music lessons to financially disadvantaged and at-risk kids.  Because of a tight budget, the schools directors watch every nickel and dime that's not connected to music and the children.

Fuquay is the school's business manager and a teacher.

He showed us three years of invoices from Waste Management, the company that has picked up their trash for more than six years.

In January 2010, $173 dollars was the monthly bill. As the years went by, the expense of picking up the trash at the school went up dramatically.

"This is may of this year, 2013. For two pick ups, it had gone up to $409," said Fuquay.

The cost from waste management more than doubled in 3.5 years.

"We called [Waste Management], said we can't afford that, so [they] cut us down in-half, one pick up per month. We expected the bill to be cut in half also, or close to it. The bill we received was $273.55," Fuquay explained.

That's far from a 50 percent drop.

"One of the great things about Russell is that he is constantly on the look out for ways to save money for this organization," said the school's executive director Frank Graffeo. He says he feels a responsibility to donors to properly shepherd their funds.

Russ Fuquay called waste management about the inflated prices, but got nowhere.

"I have written to the customer service department and asked them for Knoxville manager or regional manager information; we're not getting a response from them either," he said.

"They make a lot of money doing this for a lot of people. We don't make any money. We're a non profit," Graffeo explained. "If we could get them reduce their bill to what is a fair price, that is another child going through the Joy of Music School for a year. It is enough money to cover their instrument and their music. So that is where the focus is."

Nearly two weeks ago, we called Waste Management and talked with the regional director.

He said his office was unaware of the issues raised by directors at the school, so a meeting was set up over the cost of their trash pick up, and a compromise was reached early last week.

"Well, I think they came our way a long way. We are happy to know that they were responsive," said Graffeo.

Waste Management responded by crediting the school three months on their bill, renegotiating a far more favorable three-year contract, agreeing to pick up the trash weekly, and adding a recyclable container.

Frank Graffeo is pleased.

"You have to watch your bill. You have to pay attention and be sure you are getting what you getting what you pay for," he said.

Waste Management's regional director told us if he had been made aware of the school's concerns, perhaps there would never have been an issue.

The issue is now resolved and both sides are pleased with the results.


You can see Don Dare's 6 On Your Side reports every Monday and Wednesday on 6 News at 5:00.

If you have a consumer question send Don an email at ddare@wate.com or call his 6 On Your Side hotline at (865) 633-5974.

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