August 09, 2012The low bid in the City of Greensboro's garbage disposal request for proposals (RFP) was put back in the running Friday, August 3, following a second analysis from an independent consulting firm.
The second opinion came after Joe Readling of HDR Engineering – city staff's go-to consultant on waste management issues – had thrown out the low bid from Waste Connections, deeming it non-responsive.
Waste Connections proposed hauling the city's trash from the city's transfer station and disposing of it at the Waste Connections landfill in Anson County. Readling expressed serious doubts about A-1 Sandrock, the subcontractor that Waste Connections had selected for hauling Greensboro's garbage. Readling's analysis favored the proposal of Republic Services, the city's current contractor, despite the fact that it would be much more expensive.
The Greensboro City Council instructed staff to seek a second opinion in June after a possible conflict of interest on the part of HDR came to light. HDR has contracts with Republic Services and has done no work with Waste Connections. According to City Manager Denise Turner Roth, the second opinion was intended to eliminate any appearance of impropriety.
The new analysis, conducted by Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. (GBB), found no reason to disqualify the Waste Connections proposal, which could save the city around $2 million a year on waste disposal over what it was paying before to Hilco Transport for hauling garbage and Republic Services for disposing of it in its Montgomery County landfill.
Although Readling has stated that his expertise is not in transportation, most of his criticism of A-1 Sandrock focused on the number of its trucks and the company's lack of experience transporting municipal waste. Even though representatives from Waste Connections, the third largest waste disposal company in the country, indicated that they would make certain that A-1 Sandrock had the necessary trucks and would buy an $8 million performance bond, Readling suggested that the City Council should throw out the bid.
The GBB analysis makes note of some questions they had about A-1 Sandrock and the way the RFP was filled out, but did not use it as a reason to disqualify the Waste Connections proposal. For example the analysis states that the term "wheel loader" in the list of the equipment for A-1 Sandrock needs "clarification" because a wheel load is something that would be involved in the operation of a transfer station but was written under a section that had been altered by the applicant to indicate hauling. It also states that the city should enter into discussions with Waste Connections about the qualifications of A-1 Sandrock, but said, "However, at this time, we do not recommend disqualifying Waste Connections until further discussions are considered."
GBB also concluded that Waste Connections was the lowest bidder – $5 per ton cheaper than the second lowest bid. Since the city disposes of over 200,000 tons of garbage a year that represents over $1 million a year in savings over the Republic bid. However the analysis, which the City Council received on Friday, August 3, did not go so far as to recommend a vendor.
At their Monday, August 6 meeting (held a day early due to National Night Out on Tuesday, August 7), City Councilmember Nancy Vaughan said she was "disappointed" in the analysis because she had expected more information, particularly a recommendation. The GBB study, which was not included in the agenda, was presented to the council at the end of the meeting by Roth.
The council instructed Roth to allow GBB to communicate with the bidders, which under the odd no-contact policy applied to the RFP process by City Attorney Mujeeb Shah-Khan is something they had been prohibited from doing. Roth said that GBB had some questions they would like to get answered.
The council did not vote, but agreed that Roth should encourage GBB to move forward with the analysis and recommendations.