The McCreary County Fiscal Court rejected the bid and opened the door for a new round of proposals with a slightly altered ordinance, when they met in special session Friday morning.
Time is running out on the County to secure garbage collection, however. The current contract between Scott Solid Waste and McCreary County expires on December 31. If a new agreement for garbage collection is not reached by that time, the County could have to find alternate means to provide service for its citizens.
The Fiscal Court passed a new garbage ordinance in October, calling for reduced fees, but including stringer penalties and enforcement as a means to increase participation.
At the time Magistrate Roger Phillips expressed his doubt that garbage collection companies would be able to provide service at that cost.
His warning proved to mostly come true as only one proposal was received before the deadline at last week’s Fiscal Court meeting, and that proposal failed to agree with the pricing structure provided by the County.
The McCreary County 109 Board met this week to review the proposal from Scott Solid Waste and returned with a recommendation to reject the bid on the grounds that it did not meet the specifications lined out in the County’s original request for proposals.
Magistrate Jason Mann, who sits on the 109 Board, gave this explanation for the Board’s rejection of the bid: “The proposal is not even close to the specifications,” he said. “Also we have issues with the service from the company that bid. There have been lots of complaints and their service has went down.”
The garbage ordinance passed by the Fiscal Court in October called for prices of $10 per month for single family residences and $5 per month for senior citizens as well as a $60 annual fee option for citizens who wished to bring their garbage directly to the Transfer Station in lieu of curbside pick up.
Scott Solid Waste’s proposal included a sliding scale of charges based on participation, ranging from $12.50 per month with 6,000 or more residents participating to $17.00 per month at a participation rate of 3,000 (approximately the current participation rate.)
It was also noted Scott Solid Waste was looking for the County to furnish an employee to handle billing and operate the Transfer Station, as they intended to operate their office out of Oneida. If the County wished SSW to conduct billing, an additional $2 per month, per customer would be added to the bill as a service fee. That item drew criticism as the Fiscal Court noted the fee would net SSW at least an additional $6,000 per month, or $72,000 annually to pay for the service.
The Court also acknowledged receiving several complaints about the service provided by SSW over the past few years. Complaints included failing to pick up garbage despite having paid for service, confusing schedules and rules involving pickup and mandated stickers on garbage, and safety issues with having only one employee on garbage trucks.
After an hour of discussion, a recess was called for lunch to allow County Attorney Conley Chaney to investigate what options the County would have when moving forward.
After the break talk on the subject resumed, and Magistrate Mann made a motion to reject the bid, which passed 4-0. (Magistrate Phillips was unable to return to the meeting after the recess.)
Discussion next turned to what options the County had going forward.
Possible actions, such as the County taking over garbage collection were briefly discussed and rejected due to the high startup costs and the lack of time to enact, but does remain a possibility for the future.
Additionally, the County could move to have the garbage service fees added on to the annual property tax bill, but that was also rejected on fairness grounds as well as the limited amount of money it could bring in.
The County could enter in to negotiations with Scott Solid Waste on their proposal, but since the two parties were particularly far apart on their pricing, it may have been difficult to arrive at an agreeable price structure.
The remaining option would be to reject the bid, and submit a request for additional proposals, but with a modified pricing structure.
Judge Executive Doug Stephens indicated he was contacted by at least one additional garbage service provider during the last bidding period. They reportedly told the Judge that they may have been interested, but were unable to submit a proposal based on the low rates required by the county.
Magistrate Mann forwarded a motion to amend the current ordinance to reflect a more flexible position from the County in order to possibly attract more competitive bids.
Changes include maximum pricing on $12.50 per household and $8 for senior citizens, and to allow the option for a company submitting a proposal to offer a lower percentage in franchise fees. It also reverts to citizens having the option to bring their garbage directly to the Transfer Station at $1 per bag.
The ordinance will also contain language for whomever wins the bid to handle billing and manage the Transfer Station. Judge Stephens noted grant funds would still allow the County to operated the recycling program if the franchise fee were to be reduced.
Additionally, the contract between the County and the garbage service provider will be only for a period of four years instead of five as it has been in the past.
The amended ordinance will still have to have a second reading before it is considered in effect and any bids opened and accepted.
A special session has been called for Friday, December 1 at 11:00 a.m. to conduct the second reading and open any bids received.
If no proposals are received, or if those received still do not meet specifications, the County still reserves the right to negotiate with the current provider, or companies that submitted proposals to attempt to reach an agreement.