In Palm Coast’s New Garbage Contract, Some Savings and Big, Green, Long-Term Benefits
FlaglerLive | April 4, 2012
Criticize Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon all you like: he knows how to negotiate a contract beneficial to the city he serves. He showed it with the Waste Pro contract the Palm Coast City Council ratified unanimously Tuesday evening, almost a year after a tortuous process began to renew the city’s 5-year, $7 million deal with the trash hauler.
The coup for Palm Coast was not the negotiated monthly price, which will fall, modestly, to $18.77 a month, a $1.53 a month drop from the current charge (you’ll see the new charge beginning June 1. That charge includes a 10 percent tax, or “franchise fee,” the city imposes, to generate extra revenue. The monthly bill would be about $1.8 a month lower, or around $17 a month, without the tax). Nor is it the other benefits that would have likely been part of any new contract, as demanded by the city, including once-a-month hazardous waste pick-up and “single-stream recycling,” which means that residents no longer have to separate their plastics and cans from their paper products before putting out their bins.
The coup, generously enabled by Waste Pro, was a long-term deal likely to yield big dividends for the city if and when it moves much of its large fleet (of some 258 vehicles) away from gasoline and diesel to compressed natural gas. Recent discoveries have added to an enormous domestic natural gas supply, suggesting far more stable, or lower, prices for that fuel in the future than either gasoline or diesel. Waste Pro, in a partnership with T. Boone Pickens, the wealthy financier and energy magnate who’s been campaigning for natural gas conversion for years, is investing $100 million to convert its fleet to compressed natural gas, or CNG, vehicles.
Waste Pro’s contract with Palm Coast calls for the company to have built a compressed natural gas fueling facility at its Bunnell location at 401 South Bay Street by June 1 next year. The natural gas filling station will be made available to city vehicles, if and when the city converts to such vehicles, at the same price the supplier charges Waste Pro. In other words, Waste Pro is not to profit from gassing up Palm Coast vehicles. Palm Coast could theoretically focus on converting its flee without worrying about a supply source, or a fueling station, both of which would have been expensive. In addition, Waste Pro is to make its fueling station available to other local governments, such as the school board, should those vehicles be converted.
The long-term savings for the city could be considerable. The green-energy benefits of moving away from diesel or gasoline would be an added advantage: natural gas releases about half the greenhouse gas emissions that gasoline and diesel do, and burns more efficiently.
By June 1, 2013, the monthly billing charge to residents should also fall by 15 cents, to reflect the hauler’s switch to natural gas vehicles. And that price will not fluctuate from that point on, Diane Torino, the city’s purchasing manager, told the city council Tuesday evening.
In the interim, Waste Pro could raise or lower its hauling price, however. “They cannot charge us a fuel surcharge until the price of diesel either raises 5 percent or actually lower 5 percent, where we would get the credit for it,” Torino said. “Once the CNG comes on line, they have agreed to hold the price for the duration of the contract, and there won’t be fuel adjustments after that date.”
Ironically, that could cut both ways: natural gas prices have been in a free fall because of the oversupply. So the city could find itself paying Waste Pro inflated fuel costs down the line.
Other additives to the new contract include doorstep hazardous waste once a month, on Saturday, by reservation, through direct contact with Waste Pro. Items that may be picked up include batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, motor oil, paints, household cleaners, herbicides and pesticides, but not commercial or industrial type hazardous waste. And not medicines. Those would be left at the front door or the garage door, not at curbside.
Then there’s the Big Brother bin: The city is giving Waste Pro a list of all the names and addresses of residents in the city. The information will be programmed into a computer chip, individualized to each household. That chip will be affixed to the 18-gallon recycling bin Waste Pro is providing households, free of additional charges (the cost is built into the contract). Every time a resident places the recycling bin at curbside for pick-up, Waste Pro will scan the chip to certify that the household is recycling.
That makes the household eligible for the “Recycling Rewards Program,” essentially a value coupon system: residents can redeem the coupons at participating retailers and other businesses, based on the residents’ level of participating in recycling. For example, all residents, whether they recycle or not, will get a base level of coupons because they’re getting billed for garbage pick-up. But those who set out their recycling bin at least once a month get a higher-value coupon (in the range of a dollar off for some items). Every three months, Waste Pro will hold a drawing involving all those who’ve participated actively. Prizes include electronic devices such as iPads and televisions.
It’s not, of course, mandatory that residents stick the chip to their bin.
Download Palm Coast’s Contract with Waste Pro