TDS, Balcones to Split City Recycling Work
Split vote over decision to abandon bid process
The latest chapter of Austin's recycling saga comes to a close with a less-than-unanimous vote to negotiate long-term contracts with Texas Disposal Systems – banned from the city's since-abandoned bidding process – and with bidding process finalist Balcones Resources. Both firms, along with current recycler Greenstar North America, can also negotiate to meet the city's short-term recycling needs.
The 5-2 vote to initiate negotiations with the named firms instead of using the request for proposals bidding process – available to council only in specific public health and safety instances – came after nay votes Bill Spelman and Sheryl Cole fought to reissue the bid. Spelman said he was "concerned about the propriety of negotiating with one of the companies not included in the RFP," before noting his preference to reopen the RFP process, "if it can be done in an expeditious way." But despite having just been through an RFP, Purchasing Officer Byron Johnson informed council that a five- to six-month window was the shortest the process could span, meaning a contract still wouldn't be ready a year after council started the process and before the September expiration of the city's current contract with Greenstar.
To that end, Spelman and Cole offered their own resolution, one that would negotiate a short-term extension with Greenstar, while negotiating a contract with Balcones. But after Randi Shade moved passage of the TDS/Balcones resolution, Cole, feeling the need for an RFP process for a contract of this size (Johnson estimated the total impact at $25 million to $35 million), made a substitute motion to begin a new RFP process, including new metrics such as a company's environmental record and whether it would create a positive cash flow to the city. "The sanctity of the procurement process is on the line," Cole said, later intimating that if the TDS-negotiating contract was passed, "we say to every other contractor that comes before us, 'This is how we do business.'" But Cole's substitute motion failed 5-2, and Shade's original motion, with a friendly amendment from Chris Riley that would also seat Greenstar at the negotiating table for a short-term contract, passed.
With negotiations under way, City Council is expected to ink a short-term recycling contract when they return to the dais at the end of July, with a long-term contract, including creation of a materials recovery facility, in September.