The city of Key West will spend up to $40,000 for a familiar consulting firm to hammer out the details to solicit companies for the island's lucrative garbage pickup contract, valued at $92 million over 15 years.
Kessler Consulting Inc. of Tampa submitted the best bid, although not the lowest offer. RCG Consulting, a company that didn't formally bid, told Key West on Sunday that it could do the job for $19,800.
However, city staff in the past has rated RCG Consulting poorly.
City commissioners on Tuesday approved the $40,000 Kessler contract after several residents urged them to get moving on the entire bidding process for a trash hauler.
"Approve this task order to go with Kessler," said Shirley Freeman, a former county commissioner, before the 7-0 vote. "Let's get it done. We have messed around long enough. This last ($19,800) bid was a smokescreen."
City staff had asked to withdraw the item and bring it back, feeling compelled to at least run RCG's low offer by the commission.
But commissioners hashed it out on the dais and agreed that the city's most valuable contract is worth a $40,000 contract with the same consultants who wrote the master plan when it comes to trash pickup in Key West.
Putting together the request for proposals for the garbage contract is worth Kessler's price, considering the firm's reputation and the importance of the deal, the commissioners agreed.
"We have got to, as a community, take care of our taxpayers," said Commissioner Teri Johnston. "We're talking about $20,000 (more) to get the very best contract we can on a 15-year, $92 million contract."
Assistant City Manager David Fernandez replied, "We felt obligated to bring forward a cost-effective alternative," regarding RCG Consulting, and that staff only wanted a decision.
City Manager Bob Vitas was absent.
There were no hidden agendas, just comparison shopping, Mayor Craig Cates said.
"It was half the price," Cates said on Thursday of the last-minute $19,800 bid. "People try to turn it into a conspiracy. The $40,000 is still a great deal."
For curbside trash and recycling pickup, Key West has stuck with Waste Management Inc. for nearly 15 years, having an agreement that offered three five-year deals.
The job covers residential and business garbage, with the city spending some $48 million over 15 years, and the rest of the nearly $92 million coming from private contracts.
The city budgeted $2.6 million for trash pickup and recycling collection in fiscal year 2013. Recycling alone costs $447,390, the budget predicts.
Kessler's track record with other Florida cities, which includes drafting Fort Lauderdale's garbage collection contract for 2012-13, "is indicative of Kessler's ability to draft a bid document that is fair to all prospective respondents," wrote city Utilities Manager Jay Gewin in a recent memo to his bosses.
"The city does not have the staff available with the technical expertise and time available to perform this work independently," Gewin said.
The city plans to release the solicitation bid for trash pickup -- Waste Management is welcome to respond -- before the contract runs out next year.
"There's no doubt that Kessler is on top of the heap," said Commissioner Tony Yaniz. "We pay them a hell of a lot of money -- then again, you get what you pay for."