Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
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Carruthers to ask BOCC to reconsider
Rowell's business plan may get 30-day extension for environmental assessment

Monroe County's contract negotiations with its four current trash providers have stalled, as the county and the haulers are in disagreement over how much rates can be increased during the next 10 years.

County staff will ask the County Commission how it wants to proceed when the board meets Wednesday in Key West. Commissioner Heather Carruthers will also ask her fellow commissioners to "reconsider the vote" it took last month to remove competitive bidding requirements from its trash service contracts. Carruthers maintained the commission's decision still allowed for the county to put trash contracts out to bid, but no longer required it, she said.

However, Carruthers said she feels there is a lot of confusion on the county's vote, arguing that many people think the county will not put it out to bid. Carruthers wants the trash contracts put out to bid.

The county is currently in negotiations with its four trash service providers -- Waste Management, Marathon Garbage, Keys Sanitation in Key Largo and Ocean Reef. The current contracts total roughly $14 million a year.

The negotiations have "stalled" as the county and the haulers are in disagreement about how much the haulers would be entitled to when it comes to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures changes in the price level of consumer goods and services, County Administrator Roman Gastesi said. If CPI increases, it would allow the trash haulers to increase their rates accordingly.

The haulers are asking that the county adjust to CPI seven out of the 10 years. The county has countered that CPI should only be taken into account five of the 10 years, Gastesi said.

"We need to hit the reset button and let the policy decision on how to move forward come from the commission," Gastesi said. "I have bent over backwards to work with these guys."

Greg Sullivan, who oversees Waste Management's operations in the Florida Keys, contends the county has to take into account CPI, as it is reflective of current market rates for goods and services and how employees should be compensated.

"Employees are incurring cost of living adjustments," Sullivan said. "Who knows what the price of tires and steel will be."

Advanced Disposal, which handles trash services for the city of Islamorada and is the fifth largest waste hauling company in the country, wants the contract to go out to bid, said Bruce Williams, who oversees Advanced's operations in the Florida Keys.

The county's four current haulers charge a rate that costs each household $404 a year. Advanced can do it for $377 a year, the rate it currently levies in Islamorada, Williams said.

When comparing the current county service to Advanced Disposal, Sullivan contends his company and the other current providers have fewer limitations on the amount of garbage, yard waste and recycled items. The trash taken from the county's current haulers goes to Waste Management's waste-to-energy plant, not to the dump, which would be the case if Advanced Disposal took over the operation.

Local environmental advocate Jody Smith Williams sent an email to county commissioners on Sunday, urging them to put the contract out to bid.

"I urge you to rescind the vote taken last meeting that took away the requirement that the solid waste contracts go to competitive bidding," Smith Williams wrote. "I hope that the presentation you will hear from county staff this Wednesday on the status of negotiations with the waste haulers will be forthright and honest about the "deal" being offered to the county in exchange for a (previously unheard of) 10-year extension. If so, you must conclude as I have, that only the marketplace can bring out the truly best service at the best price, through competitive bidding."

Also on Wednesday, the commission will vote to extend the period to conduct an environmental assessment and do other legal work for the purchase of Rowell's Marina in Key Largo. The commission will vote to extend the period from 60 days to 90 days. Commissioner Carruthers wants to see a long-term business and maintenance plan come back to the commission within those 90 days, she said.

The commission meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Harvey Government Center, 1200 Truman Ave., Key West.

tohara@keysnews.com

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