- Back on 11/3/09, resolution #R-250-09 was passed by the board that directed the City of Fort Smith Department of Sanitation to serve as the single provider of solid waste collection to the entire city. The resolution was intended to assure that all citizens received the same level and degree of service when it came to the removal of their solid waste. Ironically, Stephen Tyler made the motion asking that the City of Fort Smith Sanitation Department serve as the single provider of sanitation services for the entire city and it passed in a 5-2 vote.
- At that 11/3/09 meeting, the only party speaking in favor of Altes Sanitation was Mr. Joey McCutchen. He indicated that he was the pro bono lawyer for Altes Sanitation and that the Altes family was “good friends of ours.” He pointed to a near 72% favorable/28% unfavorable rating from surveyed customers.
- Needless to say, it was just as contentious an issue then as it is now. People who did not have city provided automated service were uncertain whether they would like it. Those wanting automated service felt at the mercy of the board vote. People who liked Altes Sanitation did not want to see them lose a piece of their business. People unhappy with their service, were concerned they would have to continue receiving it.
- The contention also surrounded the rush to make a decision. Additional time for consideration was requested but denied.
- And so here we are again. Last Monday, three of the Ward candidates for the 2013 board emphatically proclaimed their support for automated trash service to serve all city residents. Oddly, on Tuesday, the current board met for a study session. Not a single director mentioned automated trash or any new service options. Then on Thursday, at 4PM, Sherry Gard issued a memo adding an agenda item to Tuesday’s board meeting to discuss a third-party trash service option. It turns out, Stephen Tyler, who so moved to have the Department of Sanitation to serve the entire city, now requested an agenda item to have 19% of the city’s solid waste service franchised to an outside party. His request needed to be approved by three other board members and he was joined by Directors Merry, Weber and Catsavis to rush this to a board vote. Ironically, just two hours later at the Ward 3 citizens’ forum, Directors Merry and Weber were already talking prepared talking points.
- What was different in ’09 from now is that the board was motivated to assure all residents received the same level and degree of service for their fees. The City was experiencing economies of scale and was certain a full city rollout would allow those economies to continue to reap benefits. Now, certain board members are motivated by the opposite. To guarantee differing degrees of service within the city’s boundaries.
- But by rushing into a contract, these board members are acting to do two other things. One, they want to nullify any citizen action to bring the automated issue to a ballot initiative. A contract could not be broken, even if the citizens voted in a majority for a single source provider. Two, they want to encumber the 2013 board with their contracted decision. Given half of the candidates have indicated they would vote for automated trash collection, there is an excellent chance the new board could reverse their recent decision.
- City Administrator Ray Gosack cautioned the board to delay action until further progress on the citizen-driven ballot initiative is known, as it would have to be filed in early September.
- Despite the obvious: the quick addition of the agenda item, presentation of prepared talking points, advice from the City Administrator to postpone a decision, as well as assuming a request to table and its subsequent lack of supporting votes, there is a very good chance the board will direct the City Administrator to begin the bidding process.
If this is the case, I implore the citizens of Fort Smith to honor the original intent of assuring all citizens receive comparable service. Insist that the following stipulations be required in any contract to franchise out the recently exempted neighborhoods.
- Parity of Service. All three types of service, solid waste, recyclables and yard waste must be collected on the same day. It is unfair for the majority of Park Hill residents and affected neighborhoods who voted that they wanted automated trash to be subject to multiple day service. The winning bidder may not co-mingle separated recyclables and yard waste with solid waste. Citizens who separate their recycle items from their general trash deserve their concern for the environment to be respected. Likewise, yard waste needs to be composted and reused.
- Parity of Rates. All bidders must provide the service at or below the current rates the city charges. A “Favored nation” clause must assure that should the City of Fort Smith lower its rates, the winning bidder must do so as well. Likewise, a rate increase by the City will permit the winning bidder the same percent increase in rates.
- Parity of Wages. All bidders must pay wages to their employees at or above the rate of pay offered by the Department of Sanitation. Bidders must also offer a package of benefits equal to or above the level of employee benefits offered by the City. It would be unfair that any jobs lost at the city level happened because a bidder was able to underbid because they intend to under pay their workers. While an unemployed worker may be willing to work for a reduced wage, they may not be accepting the job with the knowledge that manual trash collection might result in disabling injury.
- Parity of Appearance. All over town, neighborhoods look better because uniform bins are out on collection day. The affected neighborhoods deserve the same parity with their fellow Fort Smithians.
- Parity of Bid Opportunity. All citizens in the affected neighborhoods must be made aware that a decision to outsource is a decision that requires the board to accept the “best bid” State statute requires competitive bidding. There are no guarantees of service. Likewise, there is no guarantee that the party that wins the first round of bidding will be the winner of the next round. Affected neighborhoods may have a different provider with each contract. Citizens need to be made aware of the full consequences of the decision made.
- Parity of Consideration. The winning bidder must present cost projections that demonstrate they are not only qualified to perform the service, but have due diligently conducted a cost analysis to support the level of pricing they offer. An “off the cuff” statement after a board meeting by a potential bidder that the service can be provided “at or below what the city charges” must be backed up with pro forma budgeting.
- Parity of Effort. The contract should allow its termination by board vote. The contract should allow its termination by majority vote of a ballot initiative.