Trash sites decision awaits

Published 5:43 pm Sunday, February 22, 2015

POWELLSVILLE – They arrived with the feeling only one would emerge the winner; instead, they’ll both get another shot.

The Bertie County Board of Commissioners, holding their regular evening monthly meeting at Powellsville Town Hall here on Thursday, came to review and discuss the submitted proposals for the future operation of the county’s five Solid Waste and Recycling convenience centers; the current contract for which expires at the end of June 2015.

The Commissioners were originally slated to meet in Powellsville on Monday in the second of their nine meetings away from the Commissioner’s regular chambers back in Windsor; but that meeting had to be delayed three days due to the weather.

“When we decided that curbside collection was off the table we decided to move forward to renew our contract for operation of the convenience centers,” said Board chair Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson. “We put that out for bid and we received two bids.”

The bids were received from Waste Industries, current operators of the convenience centers, and Republic Services, operators of the county landfill in Aulander.

“These are the two completed, timely bids we will be considering,” Wesson added.

In acknowledging the RFP’s (request for proposal) received, the chairman went on to state that the two proposals do differ.

The one from Waste Industries has been for five years with five year renewals while the one from Republic Services is for a 10 year agreement.

“Their thought was coming in new they wanted to cover the cost of new equipment there, so they offered a contract over 10 years,” Wesson stated.

As discussion began, Commission vice-chairman Tammy Lee voiced her interest in the future of the current convenience center employees.

“My concern was the employees that are now working at those sites,” Lee said. “That whatever company wins the bid that those employees are offered their jobs back and that they are taken care of because these are Bertie County citizens.”

Commissioner Ernestine (Byrd) Bazemore requested clarity on the rate the two bidders were offering, saying – without publicly giving out figures – the one from Republic was certainly attractive.

“I think if you look at their rate offered over a 10 year period that it would save something like a half-a-million dollars,” Wesson said. “That is over 10 years, and we haven’t given Waste Industries a chance to respond.”

Wesson said there were possibly items in the Waste Industries proposal, in kind, of which Republic had not responded.

Before discussion began, Wesson mentioned he had an idea he wished to present.

“Because we only have two, and we’re going to move auspiciously to bring this thing to conclusion with a solid contract, I’m going to suggest that we bring back (both) for a one-hour session independently, so that we can ask specific questions to them about their offer,” Wesson proposed. “This gives us the opportunity to further negotiate and discuss with both of these for one last time before this board makes a decision. I think that would be in the best interest in both the companies and of the citizens of Bertie County.”

The two companies were asked to return to the regular chambers in Windsor on Thursday, Feb. 26 with Waste Industries meeting the Commissioners at 3 p.m, and Republic Services meeting with the group at 4 p.m.

“From that discussion we will be prepared to make a selection at our next meeting which is March 2,” Wesson added.

There was a question among the Commissioners if the meeting should be open to the public or held in closed session.

“It is dealing with business and contracts,” inquired Commissioner John Trent.

“I’d rather it be open to the public,” said Commissioner Stewart White. “Let the public hear what we are doing.”

County Manager Scott Sauer reminded the Board that the public has access to the two proposals, now that they’ve been unsealed, via the county website.

“It’s really an open-table process,” said Sauer.

Assistant County Attorney Jonathan Huddleston said based on his conversations with County Attorney Lloyd Smith the meeting could be held in open session.

“The public is invited to come out and hear the comments and responses that we get from both companies, so you can know exactly the pros and cons we are weighing,” Wesson said.

The chairman then called for a motion on the one-hour Feb. 26 meetings with the two companies as a final fact-finding session on the two proposals, seconded by vice-chair Lee, and the Board passed the motion unanimously.

During the public comment section, Donald Byrum of Windsor asked about the convenience centers contract and questioned whether a decision had been made ahead of time.

“We wouldn’t be doing the citizens justice if we just took the first bid that came in,” said Lee. “We want to consider all facts and save the county as much money as we can.

Matt East, Division Manager for Republic Services at the Landfill, used the comment section to mention his company’s contributions to the county.

“I want the people of Bertie County to know that we are here, we’ve been here and we’re continually giving back,” East stated.

White asked directly, for the record, about Republic Services re-hiring current convenience site employees.

“If we get the bid, they would have first choice,” East said. “You want the people who know the sites and know the area. They are your best asset.”