Controversies and maneuvers over, the Palm Coast City Council will soon renew its contract for trash, recycling and yard waste pick-up with Waste Pro, its hauler since 2007, for another five years. It’s what City Manager Jim Landon wanted since last spring when he sought to skip the bidding process and simply renew the contract with Waste Pro. Residents may see a negligible difference in their trash bill, if that.
“You’re vat the final stages of hopefully a new contract for solid waste pickup,” Landon told the council on Tuesday, prefacing the results of his staff analysis of bids submitted by four companies in December, giving Waste Pro what was never in doubt: the clear advantage.
The council will give the public a chance to weigh in on the proposal at next Tuesday’s council meeting (Jan. 17, at 9 a.m. at the Palm Coast Community Center). It will formally approve the roughly $7.5 million-a-year contract at a subsequent meeting, after the administration has negotiated its finer points with Waste Pro. Landon said there was a chance that those negotiations could be completed by next week, however.
The current monthly charge for residential trash pick-up, including a fuel surcharge, is $20.32, or $243.84 a year. The bids from the four companies came in this way (the prices include the fuel surcharge):
- Advanced Disposal Services of Jacksonville: $20.45
- Waste Management: $22.09
- Waste Pro: $18.47
- WCA of Florida: $27.82
Mayor Jon Netts was impressed by the difference in prices, giving Waste Pro the clear advantage. But Council member Bill McGuire was curious: where’s that $2 a month reduction coming from, as far as Waste Pro is concerned? “A good chunk of the price is actually the disposal cost and the tipping fees,” Landon said, “and those are the kind of things that—do they have their own facility they can take it to, they do now in St. Johns County, they didn’t before.”
Keep in mind, those are the base prices. While Waste Pro’s appears to yield a $2 saving on current charges, that’s not likely to be the final result, once the city negotiates the details on the contract. Several additional fees will apply.
For example, if the trash is hauled off to a “waster to energy” facility, where trash is converted to electricity, there would be an additional $2.75 charge. But the council is not very interested. If Waste Pro’s vehicles were to go to compressed natural gas fueling for its trucks, it would need a fueling facility, and that facility would add $0.55. On the other hand, if the city goes with compressed natural gas collection trash trucks, Waste Pro would knock off $0.70 cents, so the reduction would actually amount to only 15 cents. “The collection vehicles and the fueling facility are going to have to come together,” Landon said. If the city were to add video cameras in each truck, that’s an additional 5 cents. (The city is requiring GPS devices in each truck.)
Then there’s the door-step hazardous waste collection: should the city go with that option, it would be an additional 30 cents a month per household (or $3.60 per year), or a charge of $60 per actual pick-up (charged to the city: residents would not have had to pay the $60 themselves). Council members liked the idea of the 30 cents a month charge.
Two trash days, one recycling day, one yard waste day: That won’t change. Nor will the two-man crew approach. Waste Pro uses two men on each truck. Other haulers were proposing a more automated system that would have enabled using just one person in each truck. Council members were opposed. Waste Pro will also offer “single-stream recycling.” That means you won’t have to split your recycling bins between paper products on one side and plastics and cans on the other. One bin, one stack.
The discussion about automated systems was driven by past experience in Palm Coast—and a good deal of misinformation that the city administration never corrected. The assumption, with an automated system, was that the trash bins would have to be the 96-gallon type colossal things once tried in the B-section, to resident’s displeasure.
As Netts described it, “the complaints ranged from it’s too big, I can’t get it out of my garage, b, I don’t care about the wheels they last about a week, it’s too heavy, c, when the thing mechanically dumps it and there’s a crosswind blowing it spreads all over, and I just don’t like it, so all the residents were pretty much uniformly no, I don’t like it.”
But an automated system means neither a necessary reduction of pick-up days nor a 96-gallon bin. Bunnell’s government took over trash hauling last year, removing Waste Pro. Its system is automated. It does two-day residential pick-up. The cans, while uniform, can be of some varied sizes, including a small 64-gallon version. Complaints, Perry Mitrano, the city’s waste management director, are nil. And streets are far cleaner, precisely because the uniformity of the can has reduced the amount of trash that used to spill out of the multiplicity of cans residents bought, or failed to replace when they got old, lost their lids, and so on. In Bunnell, the city provides the cans to residents and merchants, free of charge. The hauling is also a lot easier on the hauler himself, who seldom needs to get out of his truck. The system vastly improves the individual hauler’s safety and reduces body stress.
The Palm Coast council, however, had early decided that two-men crews were non-negotiable.
As usual in such processes, bidders were awarded points according to how well they matched up with each criteria the city set out—20 points for their ability to fill out the contract, 30 points for the base price they’re proposing, 30 points for customer service, 10 for local experience, 10 for technology, out of a total of 100 points, with a bonus of 5 points for local bidders—an extra gift to Waste Pro—in line with the city’s ordinance giving local merchants preference in bidding situations.
Local experience matters, Dianne Torino, the city’s purchasing and contract manager, said, because “we do have different haulers here in the city that have experience in the city, and we felt that it would be important if someone has been in the city before whether they had done our residential pick-ups or commercial pickups, having the knowledge of our city and our streets we felt was a benefit and worth evaluating.”
The council had no hand in analyzing or ranking the four haulers after the bids came in last December. The bids were not even opened publicly when they were entered, nor was the public afforded the chance to see the bottom-line bids each hauler made. That revelation took place behind closed doors. Florida law allows it. The city administration did the analysis and the ranking, with five administrators going through the point system. In the end, Waste Pro racked up 473 points, or 127.5 points ahead of the second-ranked hauler, Waste Management (out of a maximum of 525 points).