City to talk trash contract, natural gas plan with hauler

Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.

Gainesville soon will begin working out a five-year contract extension with its residential trash hauler contingent on the company converting its fleet to compressed natural gas and opening a public fueling station.

The City Commission agreed on Thursday to open talks with WCA, which approached the city and Alachua County with the proposal several months ago.

The city and county, which jointly negotiate their curbside collection contracts, entered the current seven-year contract with WCA in 2009. The contract has an approximate annual value of $7 million and includes two options for five-year extensions.

Thursday’s vote passed 5-1 with Todd Chase in dissent and Mayor Craig Lowe absent to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C.

Chase sought unsuccessfully to amend the commission’s pending action to open the process up to bids from other companies.

“I want to see what else is out there,” he said.

Public Works Director Teresa Scott said the city had a binding contract with WCA through Sept. 30, 2016, and it included no “out” option to rebid and potentially award the contract to another firm before that expiration date.

Commissioner Thomas Hawkins also questioned how the city could negotiate with one firm while also sending the contract out to bid.

“This is one course of action, that’s a separate one,” Hawkins said of entering negotiations.

Chase said if WCA wasn’t willing to allow the city to seek other bids now, he would support starting a competitive bid process in late 2014. That would comply with the timeline in the current WCA contract to go out to bid on a new contract starting Oct. 1, 2016, after the WCA agreement expires

WCA’s fleet currently runs on diesel. The firm says converting to compressed natural gas would mean a cleaner fuel with less greenhouse gas emissions and less cost to the county.

Currently, the city pays an approximately $257,000 annual fuel surcharge because diesel prices have risen by more than 10 percent above the amount WCA bid in 2009.

Scott said the WCA proposal for an extension includes no such surcharge.

WCA plans to purchase natural gas from Gainesville Regional Utilities.

The city’s negotiations will also include an effort to have WCA annex its property, at 5002 SW 41st Blvd., into the city and talks on how the company will meet county government’s goal of achieving a 75 percent recycling rate.

Thursday’s vote came over the objection of representatives of one firm in the natural gas fueling station business and one solid waste hauler.

George Herrera, with the firm No Petro, said his company had established compressed natural gas fueling stations in Tallahassee through a partnership with local government there and “wants to duplicate that here.”

Dana Miller, with Waste Pro of Florida, pressed the city to let the current contract with WCA run its term and then “allow more haulers to participate in this process.”

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