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Wilkes-Barre receives one bid for privatizing trash collection

December 29, 2017

Wilkes-Barre receives one bid for privatizing trash collection | logo2_400x400

Source: Steve Mocarsky, The Citizens' Voice

WILKES-BARRE - Officials with a municipal waste collection company refused to bid on a three-year contract with the city because they didn't think city officials were serious about privatizing trash and recyclable collection.

Officials with County Waste thought the city "was just using the bid as leverage to cut a better deal with its employees," said Jerry Cifor, director and vice president of the company, which is based in Clifton Park, New York, and has operations in Virginia as well as six divisions in Pennsylvania.

The city administration is currently in contract negotiations with Teamsters Local 401, which represents the city's Department of Public Works employees. The administration advertised a request for proposals for curbside trash and recyclable collection on Dec. 1.

City Administrator Ted Wampole disagreed with Cifor, saying he was "off-base," and that one of the reasons the city advertised the request for proposals is "because it was in our Early Intervention Plan."

PFM Consulting Group, the city's financial advisor working to keep the city out of distressed status, determined the city was running deficits of about $1 million a year on waste collection.

Wampole has said a study of the city's waste collection was one of the recommendations made by PFM.

One proposal submitted

City officials on Thursday opened the sole bid received in response to the request for proposals for private trash and recyclable collection.

Waste Management of Dunmore submitted a $15.9 million proposal for a three-year contract, which would cost the city $5.2 million the first year, $5.3 million the second year and $5.4 million the third year.

Two Waste Management officials attended Thursday's bid opening.

Asked why he thought more companies didn't submit bids, Tom Stang, Waste Management public sector solutions representative, said, "I don't think the other vendors are up for a big contract like this."

"We're ready to go," added John Hambrose, communications manager for Waste Management/Greater Mid-Atlantic Area. "We take care of the City of Allentown and we're ready to take care of the City of Wilkes-Barre."

But Cifor, who responded to a phone message asking why his company didn't submit a bid, said Stang was wrong.

Not enough time, information

"If the city were serious, there would have been more pre-bid meetings and a lot more information provided," Cifor said.

For example, Cifor said, the city didn't provide adequate information on the number of residences the city services. He said the amount of work that would have been required to put together an accurate bid wasn't worth the effort.

Shortly after the bid opening, Wampole had said he thought more companies didn't submit bids because of the amount of work required in a short time frame.

The city made bid specifications available Dec. 5 and initially set a bid submission deadline of Dec. 18, which gave vendors less than two weeks to prepare and submit a bid.

After a pre-bid conference on Dec. 12, when the question of there being adequate time to prepare bids was raised, city officials extended the bid submission deadline to Dec. 28.

"We did extend it, but maybe not enough," Wampole said.

A representative from J.P. Mascaro, the only other municipal waste disposal company to request and receive a bid packet, said an official authorized to provide comment was unavailable Thursday.

MSW Consultants, based in Orlando, Florida, also requested a bid packet from the city. Principal John Culbertson said his employees monitor news feeds for such requests for proposals so his company can offer municipal waste consulting help when new contracts develop.

Asked the average time between the advertisement of a request for proposals and the deadline for a bid submission, Culbertson said he would recommend at least five weeks.

Asked why city officials gave potential bidders less than four weeks, Wampole said there was "no particular reason."

"We still feel the amount of time we gave them was sufficient. Obviously, it was sufficient for the company that submitted the bid," Wampole said. "We just figured, why drag it out?"

City collection costs

Currently, some of the city's 40-plus Department of Public Works employees are responsible for trash and recyclable collection. The administration expects to spend $4.06 million next year on waste collection, according to the 2018 budget.

Wampole said it would take two to three weeks for him and Frati to review Waste Management's bid and determine the city's actual costs for waste collection, which are not broken down in the budget.

Wampole previously said the 38 DPW employees whose salaries are budgeted under waste collection also perform work such as pothole patching and snow plowing.

Their salaries range from a low of $26,400 for a dispatcher to a high of $48,878 for a level 1 driver. Most of the employees — 25 of them — receive base salaries of $41,559 as level 4 drivers.

Base salaries for the 38 employees listed under the waste collection section of the 2018 budget total nearly $1.6 million, with another $114,000 budgeted for overtime and $90,000 for temporary help. Benefits for current employees are budgeted at $553,323.

Other major budgeted expenses for the department include:

  • $481,667 for retirees' health and life insurance
  • $425,000 for landfill tipping fees
  • $190,250 for operating equipment, vehicle maintenance and other services
  • $150,500 for diesel fuel, building utilities, clothing and operating supplies
  • $115,000 for blue garbage bags
  • $108,262 for a vehicle lease
  • $51,000 related to recycling and contracted services.

Wampole said that after a thorough analysis of Waste Management's bid and current waste collection costs, he and Frati would discuss their findings with PFM officials before making any kind of recommendation to Mayor Tony George.

"It's not just price," Wampole said. "There are a whole bunch of things we need to consider."