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 user 2007-11-01 at 3:42:00 pm Views: 57
  • #18870

    Bid impasse stalling new recycling plan
    juice cartons, ink-jet cartridges, fluorescent light bulbs and medical
    needles are all still headed to Miami-Dade’s landfills instead of
    recycling centers.

    County taxpayers are still paying
    about $250,000 more each month for recycling than they would under
    plans to improve the program.And a multimillion-dollar contract to
    overhaul the system — which is attracting lobbyists like a trash heap
    draws flies — is headed into its third round of bidding, in part
    because some county commissioners want to ensure that local companies
    get a piece of the business.”This reminds me of the bad old days of
    procurement,” said Commissioner Katy Sorenson. “It’s going to create
    even more of a feeding frenzy than we already have and set a precedent
    for future procurements being just as messy.”

    The new contract
    – which could be worth more than $110 million over the next 14 years
    – would overhaul curbside recycling for 340,000 families. Instead of
    separating recycleables into two buckets, everything would go in a
    single 64-gallon wheeled cart, which would be picked up every two weeks
    instead of every week.The county would also begin accepting mixed
    paper, juice cartons and some kinds of plastic, as well as providing a
    separate service to accept ink-jet cartridges, fluorescent light bulbs
    and medical needles.The new service would also be about $250,000
    cheaper per month than the current program, which the county will
    continue using until a new deal is approved.County Manager George
    Burgess hoped to win commission approval this month and launch the
    improved program around April. But his proposal was rejected during a
    nearly four-hour debate on Oct. 16, largely because the winning bidder
    was a Longwood-based company named Waste Pro Inc.The discussion
    revealed strong feelings among some commissioners about directing
    contracts to local firms.”That needs to be the first consideration
    because otherwise we’re not developing and growing our businesses,”
    said Commissioner Barbara Jordan.County rules allow but strictly
    regulate preferential treatment for local companies. When decisions are
    based on the lowest bidder or the highest score from a selection
    committee, a local business that comes within 5 or 10 percent of a
    non-local winner can win the contract or receive another chance to
    compete against the top finisher.Those rules did not apply to the
    recycling contract — instead of rigidly going by price or points, the
    county simultaneously negotiated with all five bidders to drive down
    the price.

    Now, at the commission’s suggestion,
    Burgess expects to propose a new method that would split the county
    into three zones and forbid any company from serving more than one.
    Because four of the five bidders are local, at least two-thirds of the
    work would be guaranteed to stay with local firms.But that could make
    recycling more expensive; county negotiators found last summer that
    every bidder wanted more money per household if it served only one
    zone. If they all stick with the last price they quoted, the service
    could cost nearly $500,000 more per year than the $8 million proposal
    Burgess offered last week.”If we go to zones, it’s not the best
    price?” asked Commissioner Audrey Edmonson during the
    meeting.”Absolutely not,” replied Miriam Singer, the county’s
    procurement director.Commissioners suggested the next round of
    negotiations should require the competitors to meet or beat the $1.97
    price that Burgess had secured for countywide service, but there is no
    guarantee any company would do so.”I guess we’ll deal with it if it
    happens,” said Commissioner Carlos Gimenez.Even if bidders do meet
    that price, Burgess said zones create administrative challenges and
    create the risk of unequal service in different parts of the county. On
    the other hand, Jordan said the zones put pressure on each contractor
    to excel.”They know if they don’t there’s someone in the wings waiting
    to take over,” she said.

    Negotiating the
    new recycling contract has been contentious and unconventional for
    months. Burgess first tried a traditional method, known as a request
    for proposals, but encouraged the commission to throw it out when all
    the bids were higher than expected.The county then began negotiating
    with five companies, ending up with an offer of $2.06 per household per
    month from Waste Services of Florida. That company had recently bought
    BFI, which currently handles recycling pickup and was criticized last
    year for service lapses.At a committee meeting in September,
    commissioners told Burgess to keep negotiating. He came back this month
    with the $1.97 price from Waste Pro, but warned the commission it
    ”infects the procurement process” when they repeatedly tinker.”I
    don’t know when you stop — somebody’s always going to do more, offer
    more on the table,” Burgess said, noting that losing bidders routinely
    tell commissioners they would have charged slightly less in hopes of
    reopening negotiations.South Florida’s lobbying corps was on full
    display during the debate, with some of the county’s most prominent
    deal-greasers whispering in commissioners’ ears and buttonholing their
    staff in the halls.More than a dozen of them were hired after Burgess
    released his first set of recommendations in July — including former
    Republican chairman Al Cárdenas and former Democratic chairman Scott
    Maddox — suggesting a serious effort to change the outcome.Depending
    on what course the commission sets next month, the April 2008 launch
    could be delayed as little as a few weeks or as much as five
    months.”At this point we should just draw straws,” Sorenson said.
    “That would be as good as anything else we’re going to do here.”