Common Council re-issues RFP for trash collection

GLOVERSVILLE — The city has reissued a request for proposals to contract out the collection of trash and recycling after only two bids were returned in response to an earlier RFP.

The Common Council in July authorized the city to issue an RFP to determine the cost of contracting out trash collection services after Mayor Vincent DeSantis suggested that privatizing collection could result in a cost savings for the city.

The Department of Public Works currently provides trash collection in-house through a full-time dedicated team of six staff members. Staff members collect waste across the city four days a week in a city owned and maintained fleet of collection vehicles, transporting the trash to the Fulton County landfill for final disposal.

The county charges the city a tipping fee of $33 per ton for disposing of waste at the landfill, leading to a total tipping fee of approximately $177,000 to the city in 2019 for normal weekly trash collection.

The city additionally participates in the county recycling program that sees recyclables collected across the city twice a month by county staffers at a collection rate of $30 per ton, leading to a roughly $15,000 fee to the city in 2019.

The city issued an RFP seeking to determine if contracting out waste and recycling collection services to a private company would result in a savings from current disposal fees combined with in-house labor, equipment and maintenance costs.

After receiving just two responses to the initial RFP in September, the city rejected the returned bids and reissued the RFP on Oct. 6 with bids to be returned to the city by Oct. 20 at 10 a.m.

“Those same bidders will have a chance to bid again but we want to see if we can widen the field a little bit,” explained DeSantis today. “We wanted to see if we could get more bids.”

Although contractors are bidding on a potential one-year contract with the city to run from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31., DeSantis acknowledged that the final determination on whether to privatize waste collection may not be made before the end of the current year due to the array of variables involved in performing a cost benefit analysis.

“We may be into 2021 before we resolve all of this,” said DeSantis. “We would do a budget modification if everyone agrees to all of this.”

While a private company would take over hauling away trash and recycling across the city if a contract is ultimately awarded, those materials would still be processed and disposed of through the county landfill. If the city receives favorable bids, DeSantis explained that the city would then go to the county to discuss any impact the shift would have on tipping fees.

A contract for the private collection of both trash and recycling would result in a savings to the county which would benefit from the continued receipt of recyclable materials for processing without the costs associated with mobilizing its own staff members twice a month for pick-up.

“It’s a pretty hefty expense for the county to do that and so we would kind of be relieving the county of some of that expense,” said DeSantis.

Furthermore, DeSantis pointed to the likelihood that the county would receive more recyclable materials each year as collection was performed weekly for the first time and residents better sorted recyclable materials from trash into separate 95-gallon garbage and recycling containers the selected private collection company would be expected to provide.

The streamlined containers on wheels can be collected automatically by collection vehicles which would likely mean that collection across the city could be completed in a single day relieving confusion for residents over pick-up schedules.

Any shift in service providers initially would lead to the redeployment of the six DPW staff members who currently perform trash collection. It is anticipated that some of those positions would later be eliminated through attrition as staff members retired or otherwise departed from the DPW. No layoffs would result from a shift to private waste collection.

“There are lots of things we can do to improve the city and improve the neighborhoods, so initially we would be using those people for other functions that the DPW does,” said DeSantis.

While the final cost of potentially privatizing waste collection has not yet been determined, DeSantis pointed to prospect as showing some promise when compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars he estimated the city spends each year to perform collection in-house.

“There’s a lot of discussions to have and a lot of facts that still have to come in before we can do the cost-benefit analysis, but if we can improve services and save money at the same time, that would be great and I’m hoping that’s the way it comes out,” said DeSantis.