Recology gets dibs on garbage contract
Council members hesitant to let go of longtime hauler
Against the advice of city staff, the City Council has decided to try to extend its contract with the city's longtime garbage hauler, Recology, and will only put the contract up for bid if an agreement isn't reached by January 31.
Recology of Mountain View, formerly Foothill Disposal, has hauled the garbage from the city's homes and businesses since 1940. Recology's contract expires April 26, 2013. The city is looking to award a garbage contract for another 8.5 years.
Council members Margaret Abe-Koga and Ronit Bryant were the lone dissenters in the decision as they favored taking the contract straight to bid.
"Let's say an agreement is made" with Recology before others haulers bid on the contract, Abe Koga said after the meeting. "I have no way of knowing if it is good or not."
After 70 years as the city's garbage contractor, Recology has worked its way into to the fabric of the city. The Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to council supporting a new contract with Recology. Also, Recology Mountain View's general manager is Pamela Martello, wife of former city attorney Michael Martello, whom council members know well.
"In the interest of the free market and competition I say we should go out to bid," Abe-Koga said earlier in the meeting, before looking to member Tom Means. Means, along with fellow libertarian John Inks, surprisingly decided against taking the contract straight to bid.
"I agree with Margaret," Means said. "We wouldn't know how to evaluate it unless we had some alternatives." He later added that since bidding wouldn't start for several months, "In the meantime why not negotiate and see what we come up with? I think Recology will make an offer at some point that I think we can accept."
Recology has "a track record worth considering," he said.
Inks also expressed mixed opinions, saying that he initially favored negotiations with Recology but said that the subject was complex enough that he had to "defer to staff."
Mountain View resident Julie Muir, also a representative of Peninsula Sanitary Service, said she has been "waiting for innovation in our city's recycling and garbage collection system," including an increase in recycling for businesses in the city and starting the collection of compostable organics from both residents and businesses, as Palo Alto does.
Muir said that Recology would have an edge in the bidding process if the city doesn't specify new trucks, although others noted that a contractor could have a fleet of trucks waiting if it had lost a contract elsewhere. Council member Mike Kasperzak noted that Recology's trucks "seem fine."
"I don't want to pay for a whole new set of trucks. My bins are doing fine, I don't need to have new bins," he said.
Recology employees spoke at the meeting, including a driver named Ernie who said he had been with the company for 22 years. "We are mostly a group of senior drivers," he said. "We have a lot vested into our jobs here. We know our community, we know our customers." He added that drivers new to the city wouldn't have as much pride in their work.
The city's garbage rates increase every year partly because Recology's contract includes an annual 3 percent cost hike. The city's contracts with a Sunnyvale's SMART station landfill and San Jose's Kirby Canyon landfill expire in 2021, which is when council member Kasperzak, Mayor Jac Siegel and others said was the right time to consider a contract with a new hauler, especially since a convenient "single stream" collection could be specified in all three contracts.
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