Palm Coast government drew just two bids from garbage haulers, one of them Waste Pro, as it considers whether to replace Waste Pro or stick with the hauler that’s provided trash service in the city since 2007.
According to the bid documents, both bids would result in a significant price increase if current twice-a-week service were maintained: a 30 percent increase if Waste Pro wins the contract for another five years, and a 66 percent increase if the city council were to find reason to opt for the bidder challenging Waste Pro: FCC Environmental Services.
The city has been frustrated with the checkered quality of Waste Pro’s service, on and off, over the years, but the displeasure may not be so surmountable that the city would opt for a much more expensive company, especially as two-thirds of the city’s residents responding to a survey about garbage service earlier this year termed themselves satisfied.
Waste Pro’s recurring difficulties and significant fines by the city for poor service–nearly $14,000 in May, when the city declared the company in breach of contract, $4,000 in June and more than $10,000 in July–has little to do with the search. Waste Pro’s five-year contract is up in 2022. But the city issued a request for proposal, as it did five years ago, when it also drew only one other contender (Advanced Disposal Services of Jacksonville) and 10 years ago, when it drew three contenders (Advanced Disposal, Waste Management, and Texas-based WCA Waste Corp.) Waste Pro won out each time.
None of the previous bidders tried this time around. The contender is FCC Environmental Services, a relative newcomer to the American garbage scene.
The bid request asked companies to submit prices under four “scenarios,” or options, to pick up what amounts to more than 35 million tons of garbage produced by Palm Coast residents and businesses every year, close to 5,000 tons of recycling and more than 5,000 tons of yard waste. The Palm Coast City Council wanted to examine what price companies would quote if they offered only once-a-week service, as opposed to twice a week, as now. And they wanted to know the price difference between service where residents provide their own garbage cans as opposed to the hauler providing the can.
In each of the four options, Waste Pro quoted the lower price. (See the table below.)
Current service means twice-a-week garbage pick-up from cans provided by the resident, not the company, once-a-week recycling and once-a-week yard-waste pick-up. That monthly cost today, in effect since 2017, is $20.36. Waste Pro’s new price would be $26.46, or $6.11 a month more, for an annual cost of $317.52 (compared to $244.32 today.)
FCC Environmental for that service quoted a monthly cost of $33.84, or $13.48 more than the current price, and $7.38 a month more than the new price Waste Pro quoted.
If the city were to go with the same plan but opt for garbage cans provided by the haulers, the prices almost equalize: Waste Pro is quoting a monthly price if $32.23, a 58 percent increase from what it’s charging today, while FCC Environmental is quoting $33.43, or $1.20 more than Waste Pro, and a 64 percent increase over current rates. FCC’s price for company-provided cans is lower than for service under resident-provided cans. But that’s not an oddity. It reflects cost-savings through automation. Company=provided cans means a hauler may not need to have two employees in a truck. In Bunnell and Flagler Beach, for example, the cities provide service themselves, with the driver of the garbage truck using automated hydraulic arms that hook into the city-provided cans and lob their contents into the truck.
The council was also interested in exploring once-a-week garbage pick-up, which many counties and cities have adopted. Under that scenario, Waste Pro would still charge more than it does now, raising the monthly cost 14 percent to $23.22. FCC Environmental’s price would be $25.54, a 25 percent increase over current costs. If the companies were to provide their own cans, the cost again is nearly equal: $27.14 for Waste Pro, $27.98 for FCC Environmental. But once-a-week service would require residents to have larger trash bins, an option that may not be as attractive in a city where almost 30 percent of residents are over 65.
The service would of course still include bulky and “white goods” (or large appliances) collection, regardless of “scenario.” The council considered doing away with recycling but that discussion didn’t go very far, even though a growing number of residents see recycling more cynically: much of recycled materials, like glass and newsprint, is no longer profitable for haulers to recycle, now that markets like China no longer accept the stuff. Residents have raised doubts about whether their recyclables are getting recycled or ending up in trash piles. Waste Pro has assured the city that recycling continues. Flagler Beach, on the other hand, quit recycling all but aluminum and cardboard products.
FCC in its bid is pledging to hire locally. “FCC will prioritize its hiring efforts with staff from the previous hauler, as well as staff that lives in the City of Palm Coast & Flagler County,” it states. All the company’s trucks will be assigned exclusively to Palm Coast and operate on compressed natural gas.
FCC has clearly studied its competition and taken note of the many fines that the city has levied on Waste Pro (what’s called “liquidated damages”). FCC addressed that, too: “FCC has only been assessed liquidated damages related to solid waste services involving $10,000 (in one month) or more. It was in February 2016 ($15,100) and in March 2016 ($13,200) during the transition of Orange County Contract where customers changed from twice a week manual collection to once a week automated collection.”
In the last few months the company won an eight-year contract to cover a large portion of Hillsborough County in June. It won a 10-year contract in Wellington City in May, taking over from Waste Management. In Florida the company also has been serving Orange County (since 2016), Polk County (since 2017), Palm Beach County (since 2019), Volusia County (since 2020), and the city of Edgewood (started this year). Trash pick-ups in Orange, Polk and Volusia are once a week, twice a week in Palm Beach and Edgewood.
FCC that began in 1911 in Barcelona, with a garbage-hauling contract it’s kept since in that city. The company was known by a different name: Fomento de Costrucciones y Contratas. It became FCC Environmental in Europe (under its umbrella company, FCC Group). It did not start operating in the United States until 2014, when, according to Waste Today, it won a contract for biosolid waste collection in Houston, which became the company’s American headquarters. (The company’s bid papers state it started operating in the United States in 2008.) Its American customer base has since grown to 8.5 million.
Aside from serving Palm Coast, Waste Pro also serves Flagler County residents in the unincorporated part of the county, its contract with the county mirroring, or piggy-backing, that of the Palm Coast. The company is heavily invested in its Bunnell depot, and occasional difficulties aside, still maintains a loyal base of support. The city’s evaluation team has yet to rate the two bids. That’s due on Friday. The council will then consider the evaluations, which are not binding on council members, but carry significant weight. The contract with Waste Pro expires on Jan. 27.
The complete bid submissions:
Garbage Bids, 2021
The four scenarios explained:
• A.1 1x week Garbage in Resident Provided Cans, Every Other Week Recycling in bins, 1x per week Yard
Waste collection, 1x per month Bulky Items and Call Ahead 1x per month White Goods (i.e. major appliances).
• A.2 2x week Garbage in Resident Provided Cans, 1x week Recycling in bins, 1x per week Yard
Waste collection, 1x per week Bulky Items and Call Ahead 1x per week White Goods.
• B.1 1x week Garbage in City-Contractor Provided Cart, Every Other Week Recycling in City-Contractor
provided cart, 1x per week Yard Waste collection, 1x per month Bulky Items and Call Ahead 1x
per month White Goods.
• B.2 2x week Garbage in City-Contractor Provided Cart, 1x week Recycling in City-Contractor
provided Cart, 1x per week Yard Waste collection, 1x per week Bulky Items and Call Ahead 1x
per week White Goods.