By Kathleen Sloan
Truth or Consequences City Commissioners held a workshop and then special meeting to discuss the Request for Proposals to haul solid waste from the city’s as-yet built solid waste collection center on Thursday, April 19.
The same item was on the Tuesday, April 10 city commission agenda, but changes were too numerous to adopt the document.
The hauler is expected to make up to 10 hauls from Monday to Friday, and possibly two more hauls on Saturday. The trash tonnage minimum, according to City Manager Juan Fuentes, is a minimum of about 6,900 tons per year, guaranteed to be paid for to the hauler. The maximum is a little more than 12,000 tons per year, which is not guaranteed.
Since the city has about 6,400 people and each person generates about a ton of trash per year, this 6,900-ton guarantee may be costly.
South Central Solid Waste Authority Executive Director Patrick Peck based his cost analysis, which he gave to the city, on this one-ton per person equation.
The city has no commitments from other municipalities.
The city expects to and is encouraging recycling, and Commissioner Steve Green has said up to 12 percent is recycled now. That amount was not subtracted to get a minimum.
At a workshop about a month ago, South Central Solid Waste Authority Executive Director Patrick Peck said taking out leaves, tree limbs, or “green” matter, as well as concrete and other building materials could reduce tonnage by 50 percent.
Therefore, subtracting recycling and green and construction matter – about 62 percent of 6,400 tons – could be the real minimum, or 2,432 tons.
Peck said the city “would end up paying between $70 and $80 a ton.”
That includes the city’s operating cost for the center, hauling costs and tipping fees. If one subtracts 2,432 from the minimum guaranteed 6,900, there is a difference of 4,468 tons. At $70 per ton, that would cost about $312,760 in phantom waste.
This clause in the RFP also wipes out a lot of incentive to recycle. It also demonstrates how little research the city has done to closely define its trash volume and its reliance on Peck’s figures.
To be fair to the bidders, a price range, dependent on the volume of trash tonnage, should have been allowed to be quoted – the less volume, the more expensive the tonnage.
Peck’s organization has proposed a memorandum of agreement – a government-to-government contract that would not have to go out to bid. It gives hauling and tipping fee ranges, depending on trash volume, from about $42 to $46, which does not include the city’s operating/equipment costs for the facility. Peck estimated that at about $1 million per year. That is $400 per ton. Add $70, and each Truth or Consequences citizen may have to pay $470 per year in addition to the $312 each household pays for trash pick-up service.
Commissioners accepted a guaranteed two-year contract, with a possibility of contract renewals up to eight years, with rates to be examined each year.
Commissioner Steve Green questioned the two-year minimum, noting that four years had been discussed to broaden the field of applicants.
The commencement of the two-year contract is determined by the completed construction and operation of the building.
The trash trailers will be washed off-site by the operator.
The trash will be weighed at the city’s solid waste collection center, covered by tarps, with a signed seal process, in order to guarantee more trash is not collected and paid for by the city.
Although liability for the trash and who owns it at which stage was supposed to be determined, it is still vague.
“The trash is the city’s responsibility until the landfill takes it over,” City Solid Waste Department Head Leonard Carillo said. He did not give the source for this legal determination.
At the city’s April 10 meeting, city commissioners asked City Manager Juan Fuentes to clarify this issue.
Commissioner Green recalled that passing liability on to the hauler after it left the city’s solid waste collection center was one of the reasons for using a private contractor. He reminded fellow-commissioners of Peck’s warning that trash loads sometimes catch fire – at least once a year.
Fuentes told The Herald he would have a clear determination on Friday, but Friday he said the RFP requires the hauler to have insurance. He said details would come once the RFP is awarded and contract negotiations ensue.
But one of the reasons for putting out this RFP is to determine if a private contractor can haul more cheaply than the city, which includes determining liability and insurance costs, as Green pointed out.
Nevertheless, the RFP was approved unanimously by city commissioners with that item left vague.
Attendance by the public was scant, perhaps because public comment was not on the agenda.
Only two people spoke.
Rick Williams pointed out the illogic of the phrase “up to 10 loads a week, but not more than 12.” It was his suggestion that the weighing/sealing of loads be put in the RFP. Williams suggested that the clause, which states that the hauler will not be responsible for “tires” and other “acts of God” be modified to exclude tires. Williams said the haulers should be responsible for the condition of their tires – another liability issue. That request was not followed.
Audon Trujillo said the RFP should not state that bidders contact Department Head Carillo.
According to State Law, only the procurement officer can be contacted, he said. All questions and answers must be funneled through that procurement officer and made available at the same time to all bidders, he said. Publication of a question period and an answer period must be done, “Otherwise you could inadvertently favor someone,” he said. This suggestion, said Fuentes, will be made part of the RFP.