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Bowing to Public Pressure, Palm Coast Opts for Bidding Out Trash Hauling Contract

| August 16, 2011

They're back in: Waste Management and Republic Services, the nation's first and second-largest trash haulers, will get to compete with Waste Pro, and very likely several other haulers, for Palm Coast's next garbage and recycling contract.

They're back in: Waste Management and Republic Services, the nation's first and second-largest trash haulers, will get to compete with Waste Pro, and very likely several other haulers, for Palm Coast's next garbage and recycling contract.

In a striking turn-around, Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon this morning withdrew his recommendation that he be given authority to negotiate a five-year extension of the contract with Waste Pro, the city’s garbage hauler. Landon recommended instead that the city open up the process to a competitive request for proposal from all companies interested in bidding for a contract valued at more than $7 million a year.

The switch is reflective of mounting public pressure on council members not to skirt the bidding process. The Palm Coast City Council’s meeting room at the Community Center was filled with residents and waste hauler representatives–including Waste Pro employees in uniform–ready to address the council. Most would have opposed Landon’s original recommendation to merely re-negotiate. Landon’s move preempted what would have likely been an excoriating experience for council members, two of whom, including Mayor Jon Netts, are running for re-election.

Netts, who was strongly behind Landon’s initial proposal to extend the Waste Pro contract, also switched position.

“I’m going to surprise Diane here, so Diane don’t fall off your chair,” Landon said, prefacing his explanations on the switch this morning. Dianne Torino is the city’s contract manager. She had just taken a seat at the presentation table before council members. “But I do my best thinking in the shower and this one has been a real struggle,” Landon said. “Process is, actually I always say, is about 98 percent of what is important to the public, and that is, you have to have a fair process. And even if your outcomes are good, if your process is not, and it’s not perceived as being fair, then your outcomes are usually criticized.”

Bill Lewis, the council member who, alone, had openly and strongly opposed the city manager’s approach of not going to bids until now, was pleased by the outcome, but not without remarking on the way it was achieved: the council could, in other words, have directed the administration to go out to bid last week, when it first discussed the matter broadly.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re doing this today as opposed to not doing it at the workshop,” Lewis said, “because I think when you look at the population of Palm Coast, a lot of people come from the northeast, and they have a term they use up there when they see something like this, I think you all know what it is, it’s called a sweetheart contract. That’s what I’ve been bombarded with–what’s the city doing, they’re not going out to an RFP. Everyone who’s talked to me have been satisfied with the actions of Waste Pro.” But, Lewis added, “it’s the method or the process we’re about to enter into that I think got people upset.”

Landon said he was looking to preserve a quality service, preserve the 60 jobs that Waste Pro provides, and “guarantee a reduction in the monthly bill that every resident pays in Palm Coast, and actually have that monthly charge that we put on the utility bill go down.” He added: “The only way that you can guarantee that those three outcomes to occur is to extend the current contract.”

Competing garbage haulers disagree: Waste Management and Republic Services Inc., the nation’s first- and second-largest haulers, who are interested in bidding on the Palm Coast contract, claim they can lower prices and maintain quality services, as they do elsewhere. What jobs would be lost would be made up through the new contract, though disruptions would inevitably occur. Indeed, Waste Pro itself is making the very same arguments in Hillsborough County, where the county commission is considering extending a contract with Waste Pro competitors–and keep Waste Pro from bidding.

“The problem is that most people proceed the fair thing to do is to have a competitive bid process,” Landon said, ” And I know that city council’s gotten a lot of feedback from the community about open bid process is the right thing to do.” As he has on occasion lately, Landon then got slightly personal to describe his other line of thinking, what he described as “a concept that my wife taught me many years ago, and that is that I usually have on key issues at home two options. I can fight about it and do it her way, or I can just do it her way. But it’s my choice.”

In other words, the city council had no choice, given public sentiment. “I think that very likely needs to go out to bid. From a business standpoint, it makes more sense to guarantee your outcomes, but from a public process standpoint, your credibility is hurt if people don’t believe you’re being fair.”

It won’t be just a request for low bids, but for broad, detailed proposals that will include but not be limited to price. “I want to stress this will not be a typical bid just give us your price. This will actually be an evaluation. And I guarantee you, because I’ve done this before, that the waste haulers will not make this easy,” Landon said, saying the RFP will be written in such a way as to require that the haulers provide items that have to be in the contract and items that may be optional, but at an additional price. “But we do this with a lot of the other contracts that we go out and request for proposals for, and local preference will be one of them.”

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14 Responses for “Bowing to Public Pressure, Palm Coast Opts for Bidding Out Trash Hauling Contract”

  1. MJohnson560 says:

    Congratulations City Council, you did the right thing!!

  2. Bill McGuire says:

    This is a situation where the City Manager and Attorney can show their respective values. One of the criteria for senior management is the ability to successfully negotiate; whether it be with a vendor or a union. A successful negotiation should be a win for the citizenry of Palm Coast and, it seems to me, the city is holding most of the bargaining levers here. Inasmuch as Mr. Landon has taken a beating over his salary and perks he has an opportunity here to say, in effect “I won a great contract for the city and its citizens. How do you like me now?”

  3. Doug Chozianin says:

    Why does City Manager Jim Landon need to be pounded into submission to do what is right?

    Why doesn’t City Manager Jim Landon have the common sense to realize that a $7 million garbage contract needs to be submitted to bid especially when there are at least three qualified companies that can do the job? (…perhaps at a lower price with improved service.)

    We need to bid out the City Manager’s job! I bet we can get a competent, taxpayer sensitive City Manager for about $150,000/yr… with perqs and benefits. Let’s float a help-wanted ad and see how many qualified responses it generates. I bet the mail bags would fill up his office.

    Doug Chozianin

  4. Anon says:

    The Mayor was against if before he was for it (the bid). Just like the pie in the sky city hall.

    Is Bill Lewis the only one who can stand up and state his position or was his comments the only ones quoted? Why does it take an onslaught of public opinion for this group to have an epiphany? Shouldn’t bidding out such a large contract be a rudimentary decision?

    Now that this contract will be put out to bid watch the behind the scenes maneuvering during the selection process.

    Mr Landon says.
    “I want to stress this will not be a typical bid just give us your price. This will actually be an evaluation. And I guarantee you, because I’ve done this before, that the waste haulers will not make this easy,”

    So he has done it before, what is the point. Is he looking for easy?

    I hope that the town council does not select the trash hauler in the manner that they used to select the city landscape contractor. The landscape contract went to the highest bidder and some say that award was questionable.

  5. JR says:

    I don’t know if I’m comfortable with public officials bringing their bathroom persuasions into the public domain. But if it helps with such obvious clarity, maybe the new ??? million dollar city hall ought to have one built into the council chambers.

  6. Jack Howell says:

    Looks like the public outrage coupled with fact that two of our city council members are up for reelection swayed Mr. Landon and Mayor Netts to change their positions on sending the trash contract to bid.

    Mr Landon stated that “I want to stress this will not be a typical bid just give us your price. This will actually be an evaluation. And I guarantee you, because I’ve done this before, that the waste haulers will not make this easy,” The words “this will not be a typical bid” leaves one to wonder how they are going to finagle a way to make sure Waste Pro continues. Our city leaders have been known for some of the unscrupulousand covert deals in the past. Will the bid process be another? Charlie Ericksen would not stand for backdoor deals!

  7. PJ says:

    You still don’t get it Landon. You still have to get your way with your statement of ‘“But we do this with a lot of the other contracts that we go out and request for proposals for, and local preference will be one of them.”

    Local preference my rearend. so your underhanded dealings and sinister ways just keep shinning through Landon!

    What an honest bid is too much work for you, your lazy as usual. You run your staff and the board by intimidation. You make the way mobsters work look like kindergarten.

    Waste pro workers are just great folks. The company has less to be liked about.

    It takes one to know one thats why you do business with and like waste pro. Just mucle people around. Waste pro did it to Bunnell why they were asked to move on.

    Get with it Landon before your asked to move on too.

  8. Charles Ericksen, Jr says:

    I cannot stay out of this discussion. Thanks for the compliment Jack..and ANON, I assume you mean, the “family local preference” factor, that was applied on the landscaping contract? I was in attendance at the Council meeting, and initially was surprised at Mr. Landon’s lead in statements, but as it continued, I decided this was not an “epiphany in the shower”, but rather, a well planned and rehearsed play, involving more than one character….The City staffer, did not seem too surprised, but I doubt she would have been in on the about face …Competition is what makes the prices go down, and if the RFP is written correctly, and detailed enough, common categories of comparison are readily available. The City utilizes a “team approach”., to reviewing responses. They assign “points” to each response, as it pertains to the category, and add them up at the end…I assume, then there is some management overview, and a final ranking. According to Flaglerlive, who got a copy of all the earlier written responses and posted them on this site, ( these were never made available to the all the Council members) Waste-Pro, has about 6 contracts nearby, Two contracts have commercial customers included in their rates, so I dismissed the rates.. But the other 4 Cities, had annual rates of $108 to $160/ year in comparison to our present $240/year per household pickup. All of the rates included similar service levels to what we have now. Inaddition, what most residents are not aware of is, that included in the rates , is a “hidden franchise tax” of 10%, which the City charges Waste-Pro, for use of our streets, as the trucks are “heavy” ( I’m sure we’ve known that), and the trash hauler must put this back into their rates, and we the tax payers pay for it in our monthly bill. That costs you and I about $700,000/year..But with the rates of the 4 Cities near us, at 25% less, we should see some savings,,,,,.Let’s see what Act 2 is going to be in this drama……entitled, ,, well, you name it.

  9. John Smith says:

    That is what you get when you outsource a service. A city will have NO say in how things are done by a private carrier doing anything for them. (PRIVATE) is the magic word all they have to do is pickup after the public and go on down the road and cash there check. Complaints will fall on deaf ears at city hall because they are not responsible for what the private carrier does, just send the check. That franchise money is just a thanks for your service that Waste Pro gives the city. Garbage, Recycle pickup is big money today as Bunnell and Flagler Beach know and have there own services that bring both in at the least $700,000 to there city coffers each as Bunnell will see after they get through there first year of there own service. Complaints will be taken care of because it IS the cities problem then. Granted it would be a very big start up cost for Palm
    Coast but it would be a big money maker for them and they would have the control that they do not have now.

  10. FireDonn says:

    Why is the story always, “What does Jim Landon want?”. Jim Landon wants his trash service, Jim Landon wants a new City Hall, Jim Landon, Jim Landon, Jim Landon! How about, “What do the Palm Coast citizens want”? Even when they make their voice heard- No City Hall!- Jim Landon still tries to sneak his way in. It’s to the point that any decision that he makes – you have to wonder- What’s he trying to weazel through now? This is no way to treat the citizens or run a city. Now, once again, we’ll see what weazelly thing is done- this time with the trash hauling contract.

  11. William G says:

    Does any know why Jim Landon is still on the Palm Coast payroll and has not been dismissed with prejudice from this important (and well paid) post? When we need to carefully follow every move of an official, it is obvious we have made a very bad choice. Lets look for someone that we can be proud of and who acts n our best interest.

  12. Anon says:

    William G.
    Unfortunately under the current form of local government the people don’t select the town manager.
    The city charter would have to be changed to a strong mayor form of government in order to rid the city of the town manager. And most of the citizens probably would not vote to change the charter, for some reason they may want to maintain the status quo. Even if the current manager is replaced the result would be more of the same.
    The town manager is selected by, paid by, reports to and does the bidding of the town council.
    All in all he answers to those who hired and pay him.
    The first order of business would be to begin replacing town council members.

  13. johnc says:

    When all said and done the taxpayers of Palm Coast will again suffer. There is no need for a $ 7 million contract. One pickup a week November-April, twice a week April – November. Set the contract so that the residents of Palm Coast pay by the bag. Small families or 2 person household do not have subsidize large families. Recycling would increase because people have incentive to save, buy less bags. This works in the large cities why can’t it work here? Oh that’s right Jim Landon does not want to save us taxpayers money. He is comfortable with his $180,000 overpaid salary. We the little people don’t matter. Oh Yeah the franchise fee too, is that a tax on us taxpayers? We get charged per month and the city gets a piece of the pie. The 60 workers that work for waste pro? most are day laborers.
    City should look at own sanitation dept. They can make a killing on commercial routes.

  14. William G says:


    That is a good thought. First, we have probably have to many council members. From the reporting on the sessions, I was under the impression that Jim Landon is the dominate force in town meetings. The board, I understood, was passively following his ‘experienced’ lead. Maybe someone more familiar with the meetings could shed some light on this.

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