Lincoln City Council discussions continue regarding proposed waste hauler agreement
Public meeting to be held Monday evening at Lincoln College

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[July 28, 2017]  LINCOLN - On Tuesday evening, the greater part of the Lincoln City Council session was devoted to discussion about bids received for a city-wide waste hauler agreement for residential customers.

Much of the discussion involved debate on whether or not the city should mandate that all residential customers participate in trash and recycling collection from one exclusive provider. While it took a while to drill down to the core of what is contained in the bids, aldermen learned that the suggested mandate is an option available to the city and had no real impact on the bids as presented.

According to City Administrator Clay Johnson, the bid packets indicated that the three waste haulers who responded should base their costs on the current number of customers within the city limits. That came to approximately 4,200 households. Of those households, approximately 4,000 are currently served by Area Disposal and about 200 customers are served by another service.

If the city awards a contract to one provider, then that provider would be named as the exclusive provider for all residents in Lincoln. In other words, Lincoln residents would be able to choose whether or not they have curbside trash collection, but if they do have collection they may only be able to obtain that service through the waste hauler named by the city.

The proposed mandate that all residents participate in curbside trash and recycling collection is a second issue that would be decreed via a city ordinance, if the council votes to go that way.

Bids were received and opened in June and the results presented to aldermen. The city had sent out “request for proposal” letters to the primary providers in the area, and received bids from three companies - Area Disposal, Advance Disposal, and Waste Management. Waste Management was eliminated from the competition because their pricing was considerably higher than the bids from the other two companies. Area Disposal and Advance Disposal bids were close with Area Disposal being the least costly in some options and Advance Disposal being the least costly on others.

Inside those bid packets, both companies had offered quotes for three options as outlined by the city. Area Disposal however, offered a fourth option that they felt would work for the city.

In the original discussions on this topic, aldermen did like the fourth option submitted by Area, but also discussed the fact that the other two companies could do a similar bid if asked.

This week, Alderman Tracy Welch opened the discussion on the topic asking if the city could contact the other providers and ask that they bid on option four as well.

Johnson said that the city could indeed do that. However, he also felt that it would be unfair to Area to do so, because the cost of option four has been publicized and the other companies would have the advantage of knowing and undercutting Area’s bid.

Alderman Rick Hoefle suggested that the city could ask that all three companies submit a new bid for option four. He said that would even the playing field giving Area the option to decide whether or not it wanted to decrease its costs for the plan as well.

Hoefle also tackled the topic of the mandate. He asked if the city could consider awarding the contract as a “preferred” provider instead of mandating the service. Johnson said it could, but to do so, the city would need to write a new scope of service for the bid packets, which would take more time.

Welch also talked about the fact that there are individuals who “share trash,” meaning one household is paying the bill but multiple households are using the service. Welch said he personally felt that practice was unfair to the waste hauler because they are billing according to the volume of a single household, but are hauling the waste of multiple households. However, Welch added that the city was not in the business of protecting the company.

Welch said he had researched and found an alternative used in the city of Aurora, where the waste hauler is providing a separate price for households based on a single bag of trash.

Alderman Michelle Bauer picked up on that idea and asked if the city could request pricing for low volume trash collection.

Bauer said that a lot of the comments she receives from her constituents are based on two complaints. They don’t want to be told what to do, and they say they don’t produce enough weekly trash to justify the added expense the mandate would bring on their households.

Johnson said that he felt it would be fair and reasonable to ask the waste haulers to create a “low volume” bid for those customers.

Johnson said it certainly could, and he felt that would be a fair request, and a fair offering for Lincoln residents, and he would be happy to relay that to the two lowest bidders.

Hoefle noted that looking at the bids, the fourth option offered only by Area Disposal was the one he felt best served the needs of the city. He said that he would like to see Advanced and Area both rebid option four and also bid as “mandated” and “preferred” both.

Alderman Steve Parrott pointed out that the city has an exclusive contract with Comcast for Cable and that not everyone is happy about that. Customers do however still have other options such as Direct TV or Dish, so even though Comcast is the exclusive provider residents do still have options.

Hoefle spoke up about the time he spends at the Oasis Senior Center and contact he has with veterans through that organization. He said those veterans say to him, “They didn’t fight in the war for us to give up freedoms. They are absolutely appalled by mandates.”

Alderman Heidi Browne said she agreed with Hoefle and her constituents have also said that they don’t want to be told. However, she wondered how naming a “preferred” vendor over the mandate would impact the initial vision of the city to reduce costs for recycling.

Bauer talked about the state mandate that all municipalities provide a recycling option for its residents. She reviewed that the mandate by the state was put in place about 20 years ago, and is the foundation of forming of the Logan County Joint Solid Waste Agency. She asked if the city moved from a mandate to a preferred option would the city still be meeting the state’s mandate.

Hoefle noted that under option four, there would still be a centralized collection point, plus a twice a year curbside for larger items excluding televisions and monitors.

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Bauer said she thought recycling went away in option four. Hoefle said it did not go away, and Johnson confirmed the recycling options would be included in option four, but what would go away would be town-wide clean-up days.

SIDEBAR: Taken from the bid proposal provided by the city to LDN in June:
Area Disposal offered a separate alternate bid. This alternate would provide 95 gallon totes to all customers (35 gallon available upon request) for refuse and recycling. Refuse would be collected weekly, while recycling would be collected every other week. Bulk items would need to be coordinated with Area during the first week of the month. The collection bins downtown would also stay in existence. However, collection would only be limited to what could be placed within the 95 gallon (or 35 gallon container). For this, there would be a required 5 year contract beginning at $14.71/month with a 2.5% annual escalator.

Johnson went on to comment on Option four as well as Option three, both of which include community collection bins. He said that if there is curbside recycling, then the only people using the collection bins are those who do not have curbside service, which for all practical purposes means those living in the county would be the ones using the bins, so the city would be subsidizing recycling for residents outside the Lincoln city limits.

Alderman Jeff Hoinacki brought up another point. He said the drivers collecting trash would be monitoring what is left curbside and would not pick-up items that didn’t qualify for recycling. He commented on the bins managed by the LCJSW. “Right now it is basically a garbage dump and I don’t want to have that.”

Logan County Board member Kevin Bateman was on hand for the meeting, and asked to speak. Bateman commented that he felt there would be a “hiccup” in naming a preferred provider over mandating in regard to the state’s mandates. He said if the city goes “preferred” it may find there are additional costs involved in providing a centralized collection point to meet the state mandate.

Welch said he felt the city was answering the state mandate in providing all constituents with a recycling option. He noted option four includes the bins and that fulfills the mandate. Going to a preferred option, the bid for services would not change.

The talk moved on temporarily to the dollars that would be saved by the city in choosing a provider. As the bids are written now, the city would save approximately $80,000. Of that total, $65,000 would come from dropping the city’s annual contract with the LCJSW. The balance would come from cost savings to the city on trash services to City Hall, the Municipal Services Building, the Depot, and the future Police Station. There would also be cost savings for the city street department related to the collection and disposal of sweepings from the city’s street cleaning program.

Hoefle noted the savings to the city, but Bauer questioned who would be paying for the centralized collection bins. She felt that would have to come at an additional cost to the city. Bauer was assured by Hoefle and Welch that the cost of the bins was incorporated into the cost per customer charge.

Hoefle had also mentioned that on his bill at home, he would actually save about $5.00 a month if the city goes with option four. Hoinacki added that a good number of the calls he has received are words of appreciation to the city for proposing a plan that would actually save residents money.

Wanda Lee Rohlfs was in the gallery and asked to speak. She wanted to know how many residences were in the city. She said she understood the bids were based on 4,200 customers, but if the mandate went into place how many residences would be impacted.

Johnson said the estimated figure was 5,000.

Rohlfls would later comment that because her husband owns a business in Lincoln and pays for a large dumpster, they do not subscribe to residential trash pick-up. She was not pleased with the idea that she would be forced to use residential pick-up because she was being forced to pay for it.

SIDEBAR: In the bid report submitted by Johnson in June it states:
Exemptions could be made in this ordinance for homeowners who may utilize their business’ commercial collection for their residential waste.

Another constituent Richard Sinks, addressing the one-size-size-fits-all pricing, said he felt this program was the same as the city sewer program. In that program he as a single occupant in his home pays the same rate as a family of six for sewerage services. He doesn’t think that is fair, and he doesn’t think a single fee for trash is fair. He said that every time something happens in City Hall it is “not fair and equitable, the citizens end up on the short end of the stick.”

As this meeting began to wind down, Rohlfs made one last comment about the bids, saying that with a meeting coming up on Monday evening, the public has not seen the bids or had a chance to examine the content. Rohlfs said she would hope that there would be information provided at the upcoming meeting. Alderman Ron Keller said that a part of the Monday night meeting would include a power Point presentation of all the bids along with an explanation of the impact.

Johnson confirmed and added that the bid information had been released to all the media and was also on the city website.

The public meeting will be held on Monday, July 31st beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Johnston Center for Performing Arts on the Campus of Lincoln College. To reach the Johnston Center (building J on the map below), take the college entrance off of Keokuk Street located between the McKinstry Memorial Library and Hennepin Street. For additional parking, take Hennepin Street to the public parking area behind the Johnston Center.

[Nila Smith]

Post Script: After the Tuesday night meeting, another constituent in attendance asked LDN if it was true that the city had sent out information about the bids. It is true.

LDN posted bid information and a press release from the city on June 30th. In addition, that information and coverage to date has remained on LDN’s top stories page under Public Meetings and announcements throughout this process.

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