Athens City Council’s committee of the whole meeting tonight at 7 p.m. looks to be well-attended, with multiple community organizations and residents set to speak out about the city’s trash/recycling hauling contract.
The NEWS reported last week that the city administration informed the nonprofit Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers, Inc. (AHRC) that the city intends to select a new business for its trash/recycling-hauling contract. Ron Lucas, the city’s deputy service-safety director, said last week that Waste Away Systems (a private company based in Heath, Ohio, in Licking County) had the lowest-cost and highest-scoring bid for the contract to provide all of the city’s residential and uptown district trash and recycling hauling services.
Any contract ultimately must be approved by Athens City Council, however. The committee meeting tonight at 7 on the third floor of the City Building will be the first time City Council discusses whether to approve that contract, although no vote will be taken (the ordinance must receive three readings before a vote).
The union representing 32 of AHRC’s 37 total employees wrote a letter to Athens City Council last week, asking the city to reconsider its findings in the bid-proposal process.
“We know that Waste Away has underbid so severely that they will lose hundreds of thousands a year on the contract,” the letter reads. “We know this because, despite being union, our pay is not that great… Waste Away can’t make up the money in salaries. We know what it takes to collect trash in the city and know that we work harder, faster and smarter than any other companies’ drivers/slingers. Very few of the workers hired from other trash companies can keep up with us. Waste Away can’t make up the money by hiring less staff, or being more efficient...
“We also are afraid that Waste Away is going to go under because Rumpke has been following us around and saying that both Waste Away and probably AHRC are going to be out of business with in three years,” the letter adds. “They tell us Rumpke expects to get the contract then and offer to hire us with a sign-on bonus and $1,150 for every driver we bring with us.” (The full letter appears on page 6 of today’s Athens NEWS.)
Over the weekend, Debbie Phillips, CEO of area nonprofit Rural Action, posted on social media a call for concerned citizens to attend the meeting tonight.
“Athens Hocking Recycling Center is a key partner in our community’s work to meet our shared sustainability goals,” wrote Phillips, who formerly represented Athens County in the Ohio House. “The good jobs provided there, and the infrastructure that has helped our solid-waste district dramatically improve our recycling rate are important to the region.”
Waste Away’s president previously told The NEWS that that business has a location in The Plains, and is ready to expand its operations in the area if/when it gets the contract, along with being willing to partner with AHRC and other local businesses. (AHRC has many trash/recycling customers in Athens and Hocking Counties, outside of Athens city.)
City official Lucas on Friday provided a copy of the bid-evaluation document for the three companies that put bids in for the trash/recycling contract. They include AHRC, Waste Away and large private regional trash/recycling company Rumpke.
Lucas told The NEWS in an interview last Tuesday that he estimated the cost of services that AHRC would provide for a year came in at $1.494 million in its bid, whereas Waste Away’s bid was $1.041 million. The cost of Rumpke’s services as estimated by Lucas was roughly $1.865 million.
However, the costs listed in the bid proposals from the companies differ from Lucas’ estimation. According to the bid proposals:
• AHRC’s estimated costs for one year of services was listed as $1,501,850, with $132,000 of that coming from the cost of the company’s curbside compost program in the city of Athens.
• Waste Away’s estimated costs were listed as $908,760, but there’s no estimate provided of how much it would cost to provide curbside composting in the city.
• Rumpke’s estimated costs were listed as $1,684,434, and there’s also no estimate provided on how much it would cost to provide curbside composting.
Lucas explained in a brief interview Monday that the additional costs he had figured into the estimates he provided were based on fees those companies charge for special hauls (about 60 per month in Athens, on average) and untagged bags (1,200 per month, on average).
The bid-evaluation process the city used was what Lucas called an “invitation to bid,” and Lucas said the city used four different scorers to evaluate each individual trash/recycling company’s bid based on 19 different technical categories.
“It is normal to use some type of evaluation criteria for contracts, but that is typical with a request for proposals,” Lucas said. “This was an invitation to bid, so we wanted to ensure that we were doing more to understand a bid through a technical review rather than just accepting the lowest dollar amount.”
According to a copy of that score-sheet, on average AHRC scored slightly better than Waste Away or Rumpke on those technical categories, which included some of the following criteria:
• Ability to support special events (weighted as roughly 7.69 percent of the total score each company received. AHRC was scored as the winner in this category by all scorers but one (although one scorer tied AHRC with Rumpke)
• Detail of systems used to provide successful single-stream recycling collection (weighted as roughly 7.69 percent of the total score). AHRC, Rumpke and Waste Away were tied for first in this category by two of the scorers, while other scorers had Waste Away and AHRC as the leader, respectively.
In general, the evaluation document listed AHRC’s average score on the technical categories as 278.63 out of 325 total points, compared to Waste Away’s 277, and Rumpke’s 274.88.
However, that technical score was only 50 percent of what the bid evaluation was based on. The companies received a score based on the financial aspect of the bid, gaining a total number of points based out of 325. In that category, Waste Away received the highest possible score, 325, while Rumpke received 181.35 points, and AHRC received 226.5 points. That put Waste Away’s total score at 602, AHRC’s total at 505.13, and Rumpke’s at 456.23.
The four scorers who rated the companies were Lucas (scorer #1); Lance Allison, interim director of code enforcement (scorer #2); Michele Fish, solid-waste/litter-control officer (scorer #3); and George Nowicki, another solid-waste/litter-control officer (scorer #4).
AHRC was consistently scored higher on most of the categories by all of the scorers, outside of Allison, who essentially rated AHRC as the lowest-scoring candidate in almost every category, and Fish, who gave high scores to all of the companies in most categories (although Allison and Fish both rated AHRC’s billing and reporting systems and ability to provide cost-benefit analyses as low).
For more takeaways from the bid evaluation process documents, see this article below for a copy of the public records provided by Lucas.
Lucas added that if Waste Away were to get the contract, they would have “their work cut out for them” in preparing to roll out their trash/recycling hauling services by July 1, which is when the contract is set to start for whomever the city chooses.