County, city to consider extending waste contract


Published: Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 7:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 7:50 p.m.

Alachua County may extend a contract for the curbside collection of solid waste, recycling and yard trash with the current hauler early without undergoing a competitive bidding process.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Alachua County Commission said the county will begin talks with WCA Waste Corporation about a five-year extension on its contract, which is set to run through Sept. 30, 2016.

The city of Gainesville is expected to consider the issue at its Dec. 20 meeting, said Sally Palmi, the county's solid waste director. The two local governments have partnered on their solid waste and recycling services since 1994.

The current contract, established in 2009, offers the option for two consecutive five-year extensions.

WCA approached both entities with a proposal for an extension. Palmi said it's important to have these discussions now to determine the pros and cons of the opportunity.

If the governments were to decide against the extension, the county would submit a request for proposals from possible competitors in early 2014.

Extending WCA's contract would give the county and city a defined rate structure, but wouldn't allow them to consider later market analyses as they would if they waited until 2014 to begin a competitive search.

Possible changes to customer rates could be part of the discussions at some point, officials said.

A key negotiating point will be the transfer of some of WCA's commercial waste hauling from its facility back to the county's Leveda Brown Environmental Park and Transfer Station.

A prior company began hauling a portion of in-county commercial waste to its own transfer station and directly delivering it to a landfill before WCA took over, Palmi said. WCA has continued to do so but is interested in changing its policy and hauling all solid waste — commercial and residential — to the county station.

"It just gives us the security," she said. "Guaranteeing the flow of waste into our facility gives us a stable environment economically."

The county would incur added operational costs but also receive extra revenue, potentially upwards of $200,000 to $250,000 a year.

WCA will also propose replacing its fleet with compressed natural gas trucks — a switch that could begin as early as the second quarter of 2013, said Josh Robinson, the company's general manager of Gainesville. These vehicles would cause less pollution than diesel-fueled trucks and could save the local governments about $40,000 a month in fuel surcharges.

Palmi cited the unpredictable nature of fuel markets as a concern.

"We run the risk of having a volatile market on that side at some point," she said. "So we may assume some savings now, but the cost of natural gas could go up at a later date."

Waste Pro USA, which provides waste collection services for smaller Alachua County municipalities like Micanopy, opposes the extension but would like to take part in the discussion, said Executive Vice-President Bob Hyres.

He said it seems "awfully early" to consider extending a contract that still has a few years left on it, given the changes in industry technology that could occur. Waste Pro bid for the 2009 contract and would like to apply for the next one, he said.

Palmi said Waste Pro has a solid reputation and could be a competitive bidder, but WCA has been a good vendor.

"They're very responsive to our citizens," she said. "Our complaint rate is very low."

Contact Morgan Watkins at 352-338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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