The Monroe County Commission has agreed to remove competitive bidding requirements from its trash service contracts, meaning it still can put trash contracts out to bid, but it no longer is required.
The county is currently negotiating with its current four trash service providers -- Waste Management, Marathon Garbage, Keys Sanitation in Key Largo and Ocean Reef -- to renew the contracts for the next 10 years. The contracts total roughly $12 million a year.
The county is lobbying to keep residential and commercial rates the same, County Administrator Roman Gastesi said.
The roughly 30,000 residents in unincorporated Monroe County pay $404 a year for trash service, which entitles them to two garbage pick-ups and one recycle pick-up a week.
Monthly commercial rates vary by as much as $40 a month to $362 a month depending on the number of cans and number of pick-ups a week.
If negotiations breakdown, the county can put the contracts out to bid. The trash contracts are set to expire in September 2014, but the county wants the contracts approved soon so it can start on new recycling and yard waste initiatives, said Sustainability Program Manager Rhonda Haag.
The County Commission voted 3-1 last week to eliminate competitive bidding as a requirement for approving new trash contracts. Commissioner David Rice opposed eliminating competitive bidding and County Mayor George Neugent left early from the meeting and did not vote on the policy.
Putting the service out to bid can sometimes result in bids coming in at a higher rate than is currently being levied or proposed by a current provider, Rice said.
"Going out to bid may not always get the best price, but it looks better," Rice told The Citizen after the meeting.
Commissioner Heather Carruthers said the policy change does not mean that the contracts will not go out to bid, but only gives the County Commission the option, instead of requiring the commission to do so.
Carruthers said maybe "the time has come to put these out to bid."
The commission also voted in favor of extending the terms for waste contracts from five years to 10.
The County Commission last discussed its trash contracts in 2009 when it granted its current four providers five-year extensions on their contracts without putting them out to bid.
State law does not require the county to bid trash or other utility contracts.
In 2012, the county changed its purchasing codes and unintentionally omitted trash contracts from services it does not have to put out to bid, County Attorney Bob Shillinger said. Prior to 2012, the commission was not required to put trash services out to bid. The change only makes the trash consistent with other utilities, such as electric, telecommunications and sewers, Shillinger said.
The state does not require contracts for other utilities, such as power and sewer, to go out to bid because in part their rates are overseen by the state Public Service Commission. Trash is not overseen by that state board, which would leave no recourse for residents to challenge a rate increase or a contract approved by the county or its trash service provider.
The county wants contracts with its current trash service providers that do not call for rate increases, but could include Consumer Price Index increases to cover such things as rising fuel costs, Gastesi said.
The county also wants the providers to expand their recycling capabilities and expand to mulching and composting yard waste, Gastesi and Haag said.
"We want to maintain or improve the level of service," Gastesi said.