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Garbage collection proposal hits barriers

by Leesha Faulkner

The Selma Times-Journal

SELMA — A move to outsource this city’s garbage collection may have reached a tipping point.

The Selma City Council in a work session Monday decided it would reconsider a contract it had voted to award Advanced Disposal. Several questions rose after the council’s last action during its regular meeting about two weeks ago.

City Attorney Jimmy Nunn has advised the council to advertise for bids to outsource the garbage collection, “to make sure we get the best price.”

“We have got to make sure we are legally solid on our side,” he said after discussing the issued raised by contract negotiations with Advanced Disposal.

Lynn Gowan, the representative of Advanced Disposal, had offered a contract of $13.55 per household for once-a-week collection of garbage in Selma. However, he had made that decision based on his company collecting household refuse and taking the garbage back to Montgomery, where he could dump it for free in Advanced Disposal’s landfill.

During contract negotiations just prior to Thanksgiving with City Attorney Jimmy Nunn, Gowan found out the city has a contract with BFI and all garbage collected in Selma must go to the city transfer station. The BFI contract is for three years and will end in 2012. BFI charges $44 per ton to dispose of Selma’s garbage.

Gowan had to refigure his costs based on the new information, which meant the cost of the garbage collection would go up from $13.55 to $15.85 per household per month.

This put the contract back into the council’s hand for approval.

“There is a change,” said Council President Dr. Geraldine Allen. “It is not a simple issue. There is a change.”

Gowan said the change in price was based on internal decisions — equipment costs, time, the cost of disposal, among others.

At the time he presented a proposal to the garbage subcommittee of the city council, Gowan told them the formal contract would involve Alabama River Region Solid Waste Authority, under which Advance Disposal does business.

Some members of the full council, including Council member Bennie Ruth Crenshaw, were unaware of this information when the council voted at its formal meeting on the recommendation of the garbage subcommittee. Crenshaw questioned Nunn during the work session about the proposal’s history.

Crenshaw said she would not vote to outsource garbage collection.

The authority was created under an Alabama law that exempted it from state bid laws, meaning the city council could approve the contract with the authority and not have to receive bids for garbage collection.

The Municipal League, based in Birmingham, confirmed this fact with Nunn in e-mail correspondence with Ken Smith, lead attorney for the League. The e-mail was dated Nov. 20.

In that correspondence, Smith said, “I don’t see anything in the statute that limits this exemption to contracts between the municipality and an authority that has been formed by either the municipality or the county within which the municipality is limited. so it appears that the authority is exempt from the bid law.”

Explaining further, Smith said, “So, It appears to me that the bottom line is that a contract between Selma and Advanced is questionable because the notice provisions of the bid law may not have been followed. That said, if Selma wants to reject that bid and enter into a new contract directly with a solid waste disposal authority that was incorporated under [Alabama law] the city can do so without having to bid the contract.”

Nunn explained all this to the council during its work session. The attorney also pointed out the city tax and permit department might have violated bid laws when he sent out letters requesting proposals for garbage collection.

All bids are supposed to come from the city clerk’s office, Nunn said, and follow a particular procedure.

Smith agreed the letter alone was not enough to satisfy the notice requirements of the bid law. “Bit law requires posting notice on the bulletin board outside city hall (or the purchasing office) as well as personal notice to businesses which are on file as wanting [to] bid on that particular item.”

But in the next answer, Smith says the contract with the authority consists of a different entity and does not have to be bid.

Timeline

Roosevelt Goldsby sends out letter asking if companies will present proposals to the city for garbage collection.

Companies make presentations before the garbage subcommittee during a meeting at City Hall in council chambers. Lynn Gowan of Allied Disposal informed the members of the subcommittee of the Alabama River Regional Authority.

Garbage subcommittee recommended the council take the Allied Disposal proposal.

Negotiations begin with City Attorney Jimmy Nunn. Gowan learns of BFI disposal contract and changes proposal price.

Council holds work session and decides to reconsider the proposals at its next meeting Dec. 10.