CLINTON — Requiring all Clinton households to use the city-provided solid waste services and the future of the city's garbage trucks and trash cans were among the items Clinton City Council members discussed during a work session Wednesday.
During a Committee of the Whole work session, Clinton City Council members met with Nick Dragisich of public sector adviser Springsted to talk about the request for proposal (RFP) the city will issue for solid waste services.
Both private haulers and the city will be able to submit proposals for an eight-year contract. Springsted will aid city employees in creating their proposal.
Council members deliberated on what to do with the roughly 2,500 of the city's 9,000 households that use private haulers rather than the city-provided service. Dragisich asked if the council wanted to require these residents to use the city service.
At-large Councilman John Rowland explained to Dragisich there are some unanswered legal questions regarding an ordinance that would exclude residents from using private haulers.
"It would be nice to have the capability, but I'm not sure we have the authority to do it," Rowland said.
Dragisich said while he's unfamiliar with Iowa's laws, it's common for cities that have organized pickup to tell residents they have to use the city service.
"Most places when they have organized collection, everyone has to use the city vendor because it gets your cost down," Dragisich said. "Part of the reason of going to organized collection is to reduce the number of trucks on the road and protect the condition of your streets. And so the extent that you have multiple people coming in, coming down the street with loaded trucks, you're not accomplishing a major part of the goal that most people look to organized collection for."
Ward 3 Councilwoman Bev Hermann said while she would like to capture 100 percent of customers, there is concern that if the city instituted an ordinance requiring residents to use the city garbage pickup it would interfere with private business.
"There's always been sort of an opinion that the city shouldn't step on toes, too. But sometimes if you're going to offer the most efficient and least costly service, you have to step on some toes," Hermann said.
Dragisich said he would work with the city attorney to look into the legality of the requirement.
As the city looks into privatizing or altering its own solid waste collection, it will also need to research a law that could restrict the city from telling a private hauler where it needs to take the city's garbage. Regardless of where its garbage is disposed, the city will have to pay the $10 per resident fee to the Clinton County Area Solid Waste Agency.
Council members also discussed what a vendor would be required to do with the city's trash bins and trucks if the contract were awarded to a private provider. The city's sold waste fund is $1.8 million in the red, a result of the city purchasing $2 million in trucks and solid waste carts and equipment without having the funding in place.
The city could require the vendor to lease or buy and use the city's trash carts. The city also could make a similar request from the vendor regarding the city's trucks, sell the trucks to the vendor or could consider selling them on the open market if the selected vendor doesn't want to use them.
If the city chooses a private vendor, that vendor would be responsible for the tipping fee and billing, council members decided.
"I think uncollectibles are a big challenge of ours and for my two cents from that perspective, having someone else bill for it and be responsible for the uncollectibles and really bring able to enforce, 'if they're not paying, well we're not picking up their trash,' that's something I think a private company would be better at doing than we are right now," City Administrator Jessica Kinser said.
FORMING THE CITY PROPOSAL
In addition to the creating the frame for the RFP, City Council members discussed the city employees' proposal and what effect privatization could have on the city.
Two of the city's solid waste employees and their AFSCME representative, Ty Cutkomp, attended the meeting to work with the council members as they created the RFP.
"I've understood in this process that your goal is to look at what you would get solid waste, recycling collection services done for at the lowest cost regardless of who the vendor or provider might be," Dragisich said. "On the other hand I also hear that you want to make sure that the employees have an equal opportunity to propose to provide that service. I think we're well aware there has to be a balance so that when you get to the end of the day...you're not upon a situation where the employees are saying, 'the private vendors have an advantage we didn't have.'
Dragisich explained when submitting their costs in the proposal the city should look at what costs would go away if the city were to contract the out the service.
"If it doesn't go away it's not a cost of doing business for the solid waste function. If it goes away it's cost of doing business. That says here's what it costs doing it with our own forces, here's what it would cost us if we contract it out in real dollars," Dragisich said.
Cutkomp advised the city also should consider other services that solid waste workers provide, such as snow removal.
"If those employees are out of the equation at that point in time, how does the city deal with any additional costs associated with things that they may be filling in on, on kind of an interchangeable basis," Cutkomp said.
Kinser pointed out the six solid waste employees and the six street department employees often perform work for each other depending on the circumstances.
During the RFP process, officials will look at what its services would look like with and without the employees providing solid waste services.
Rowland asserted because the city is creating the RFP, it does not mean six employees face unemployment.
"I don't think it's fair to say that if you contracted the service out that there would necessarily be six drivers gone," Rowland said. "This is two different issues. You are talking about contracting out a service. Nobody's talked about, at this point, getting rid of personnel. That goes hand in hand with it at some point, maybe, but it hasn't been brought up."
Cutkomp also said the city should consider specifics like where the container is placed, procedures for elderly customers who can't get their bins to the curb and other pieces that will clearly show the city's expectations.
The city would want to have prices for automated pickup and assisted pickup and provide information in the RFP about how many of each the vendor can expect to handle during their routes, Dragisich said.
The city will continue to work on the RFP until it is ready to be released for responses.
Also in the RFP:
Allowing commercial customers who could use the city's trash bins;
An option for large-item pickup;
Maintaining yard waste services;
Pick-up times from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
Options for recycling;
Direction that customer complaints will go to vendor;
Requirements for monthly reports, records and an annual review; and
Price adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index.