ISLAMORADA -- The village will put its garbage contract out for bid ahead of the Sept. 30 expiration of its existing contract with Advanced Disposal Solutions.
The town will also require businesses to either recycle or pay an opt-out fee once the new contract commences, the Village Council decided at a workshop last Friday.
The decision to bid the contract, which under its current terms is valued at approximately $3.1 million annually, was a divided one. Councilwoman Deb Gillis and Councilman Mike Forster argued for negotiating first with Advanced Disposal, formerly Veolia, before opening the contract up to other companies.
"The level of service I have had is unbelievable. It is great," Forster said at the March 15 workshop, crediting local Advanced Disposal manager Bruce Williams, whom the company inherited from Veolia.
Mayor Ken Philipson, Vice Mayor Ted Blackburn and Councilman Dave Purdo agreed that the current service is good. But with the garbage contract being the largest one the village enters into for ongoing annual services, they said it should still be put out for competitive bid.
Philipson also cited last year's Florida Auditor General's Office report on the village, which singled out the town's no-bid, five-year extension of the Veolia contract in 2008 for criticism. That extension led to a 19 percent increase in the village's solid waste assessment the following year, the village acknowledged.
"I think this is a large enough contract -- again, I think it's probably $15 million -- that to not bid it would be a disaster," the mayor said.
In addition to Advanced Disposal, Kansas-based Deffenbaugh Industries and trash-hauling conglomerate Waste Management have indicated their intent to bid for the Islamorada garbage contract.
The council instructed staff to put together a bid request that would ask for prices covering both a five-year and 10-year term. It also decided to have the town's ad-hoc garbage committee rank the proposals once they are received. Last month, the five-man committee unanimously recommended that the village renegotiate the contract with Advanced Disposal rather than put it out to bid.
Earlier in last week's workshop, council members also unanimously agreed that the new garbage contract would include mandatory commercial recycling. However, they promised to put the reporting and paperwork onus of the new program on recycling haulers rather than all local businesses. The council also said that enforcement would be handled with a light hand.
"I will not vote for a police Nazi, but I will vote for a coordinator and an education person," said Gillis, referencing a new position that is expected to be created to oversee the mandatory recycling program.