Critics: Trash extension stinks
The Charlotte County Commission will be weighing in on a proposal to extend a trash-collection agreement between the county and Waste Management that has been in place since the 1970s and has not gone out for competitive bid in at least 35 years.
If commissioners approve the five-year extension, it will be the longest-running contract of any county in the region — and critics of it are wondering why.
“It’s unfounded, absolutely unfounded,” said Keith Banasiak, regional vice president of WastePro, a competitor of Waste Management’s that recently won a contract with Punta Gorda to handle the city’s recycled trash.
“The way garbage contracts work is that they typically have a maximum initial contract term of 10 years,” he continued. But since 1977? I’m sorry, it needs to go to bid.”
Lee County, for instance, puts its garbage contract out to bid every five years, Banasiak said. By doing so, the county creates healthy competition among companies that are hungry for business. In turn, that benefits taxpayers because they are willing, in many cases, to offer better rates, Banasiak said.
“It goes out to bid, you know there are competitors, you sharpen your pencil and you figure what the best number you can do it for is and you do it,” he said. “Not putting it out to bid, just for public-policy reasons alone, seems unreasonable.”
But according to County Administrator Ray Sandrock, the county is not required by law to put the county’s trash-collection contract out to bid.
“It’s one of the few areas where it doesn’t have to,” Sandrock said. “You can put out an RFP (request for proposal) or you can do a negotiation, which is what we’ve really done. We’ve negotiated.”
According to county Public Works Director Bob Halfhill, prior to Waste Management becoming the county’s sole trash “franchisee” in 2000, Englewood Disposal and Charlotte Sanitation handled the county’s trash collection.
Both companies were subsidiaries of Waste Management — operating under their original names — until Waste Management took over completely in 2000.
Waste Management’s contract was amended in 2008 and extended through 2015, Halfhill said. The proposed extension, which the County Commission will vote on at its regular meeting Tuesday at the County Administration Building in Murdock, will extend Waste Management’s contract through 2020 at a cost of roughly $15 million per year for residential, commercial and recycled trash, Sandrock said.
“It’s a good partnership and why would you want to change something that works,” said Waste Management attorney Kevin Russell, of the contract extension.
The ability to negotiate Waste Management’s contract has given the county more leverage in its ability to strike the best value for the best service, Sandrock said.
“When you have an agreement like we have, we can renegotiate things at any time,” Sandrock said, adding that the ability to negotiate gives the county flexibility it otherwise wouldn’t have.
Besides, Sandrock said, the level and quality of service provided by Waste Management for the price — something Sandrock categorized as the “Cadillac of services” — is unbeatable.
“We do a tremendous amount of research as far as what level of service is really critical to us and balancing that with a really good price,” Sandrock said. “So far, I can’t find a community that has been able, either through negotiations or through a bid process, to have a better deal than we have.”