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City Council Tables Trash Proposal

Unable to reach a consensus, the City Council tables a proposal from Athens Services to greatly enhance the trash collection services it provides to the city.

The West Hollywood City Council tabled a proposal to vastly expand trash collection services in the city after being unable to reach a consensus at its Monday night meeting.

Athens Services has been the city’s solid waste and recycling contractor since 2004; the current contract is due to expire in 2016. Athens proposed extending that contract and enhancing its services by taking over the city’s street sweeping, sidewalk cleaning, dog waste station, electronic and hazardous waste removal and sidewalk trash removal services from the contractors currently serving the city.

Athens offered this deal with several options for length – 8-years fixed, 8-years rolling, 15-years fixed and 15-years rolling. With the two rolling options, the contract would end 8 or 15 years after the city decided to terminate the contract. For example, if the city chose the 15-year rolling option and then decided to terminate the contract in 2020, it would be 2035 before the contract actually ended.

Cost varied depending on the option. The 8-year fixed option would cost the city $49,000 more per year while the 8-year rolling option would cost $32,000 more per year. The 15-year fixed option would cost $20,000 more per year, but the 15-year rolling option would not increase the franchise fee.

Councilmembers John D’Amico and John Duran were both in favor of approving the contract, saying Athens had been doing an excellent job. Both said it was a good deal to lock in prices that would only rise in the future, but neither recommended a specific length.

Councilmember John Heilman and Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land also said Athens was doing a good job, that they had no complaints. However, they both felt the city should put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to see what services and prices other companies might offer first.

Two different motions were made – first a motion to put out the RFP and then one to accept the Athens offer. Mayor Jeff Prang abstained on both, explaining that he was not prepared to make a thoughtful decision at 12:30 a.m. when he had been up since 5 a.m.

With Prang being the deciding vote, but opting to abstain on both motions, it was obvious that nothing was going to pass. The Council then voted 3-2 to table the matter to a later time. Duran and D’Amico voted against tabling the matter.

Ironically, the Council was also scheduled to but with the meeting running so late, the Council opted to continue that item to a future meeting.

Rudolf Martin July 19, 2012 at 02:48 PM
gotta love politics. shouldn't john prang have given this some thought before 12:30am or did the facts change all of a sudden? or did he unexpectedly find himself in the swing vote position on a hugely lucrative deal to the notoriously persuasive garbage industry (their representatives very much present in the council chambers) and decided to one-up heilman and land by making himself immediately available to be aggressively 'lobbied' to help him make a more thoughtful decision? gotta love politics...
Shawn Thompson July 19, 2012 at 02:54 PM
I think its only prudent to have it bid on by other providers. The move by Athens although understandable is an attempt to block competition. The services should be bid out to see who can bring the best deal to the table for the residents of West Hollywood. Its the right thing to do for everyone in my mind so that there is no cloud of concern over this service. Hellman started out the discussion by clearly stating that the city had already extended their contract with Athens at least once or twice without any type of out side bidding. Its time for it to be an even playing field in my mind
Rudolf Martin July 19, 2012 at 04:12 PM
I agree that letting other companies bid might be a sound choice even though I can see the point D'Amico made, that taking the Athens offer now would put the city on a more immediate path to having a better recycling record than our current one. Maybe asking Athens to begin adding some of the promised 'enhanced' services immediately would speed things up and be an opportunity for Athens to increase their leverage against competition while the city would benefit. There were concerns raised about Athens' practices on a human as well as environmental level (NRDC and a Union spokesman condemned them). Those concerns should be looked into before any long term contract is awarded.
90069 July 19, 2012 at 05:21 PM
This is outrageous. Kudos to D'Amico and Duran for actually having some foresight. Athens stepped forward to greatly enhance the community's service, reduce dumpster diving. The contract should have termination rights should Athens fail to provide "enhanced" services and the City Manager should have been able to forecast whether or not the rate was on-par with full-service refuse disposal.
scott ferguson July 19, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Here's the truth - had Land and Heilemann pushed the no-alternative bidding proposal, exactly the same people questioning their choice would now be screaming about it looking bad, wondering what scheme was at play, suggesting the worst. That's the way it works in these quarters. Obviously when talking about potential multi-decade commitments, there shouldn't be an issue with looking briefly at alternatives, if for no other reason than to maybe get Athens to reduce their price slightly? Seems pretty obvious to me that's the right thing to do.
long time resident July 19, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Prang is the only male on the council who is not John but Jeffrey!!!!
joninla July 19, 2012 at 08:42 PM
This is an excellent means of increasing the recycling by residents and decreasing the doubling up of large trash trucks coming for regular trash and recyclables. The City has a very long and 'good' history with Athens and Athens has done well by the City for a long time. The need for the 15 year contract between two parties that have such a long and successful business relationship will turn the tables and once secure, out of human nature (if nothing else) Athens will slowly reduce their current excellent relationship with the city, the quality of the services performed and the responsiveness to residential requests for large item pick up. I don't think the 15 year contract was a good idea but WHY? wasn't the details of the contract negotiated by our highly trained and experienced (and highly paid for those skills) settled before brought to vote at public hearing. Who in the financial running of our city thought a 15 year locked in contract was acceptable? What Whorton Grad or MBA with a six figure income negotiated with Athens and came up with this as the best deal for the Council to vote on. If as we have been told the City Management is done by the very experienced in business City Manager and Staff. All other issues aside, are we getting the best business services to manage our city? We pay more than any other City. Shouldn't we expect better business from the people negotiating basic service contracts for the City?
joninla July 19, 2012 at 08:45 PM
As for the actual recycling - it will be easier (no option to recycle or not) for the residents so this issue is a win, win for the City, the Residents and the Environment, and Athens who will sell the recycled materials for profit. (Thus the 15 year commitment is the problem).
90069 July 19, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Scott, why hadn't management been prepared with alternate bids if this was the case?
Rudolf Martin July 19, 2012 at 11:11 PM
yes of course, apologies to mr. jeffrey prang.
Chloe Ross July 20, 2012 at 09:17 PM
I heard the report and it had some excellent ideas. We all know that sanitation is what it is and we all watch HBO- but the enhanced services made lots of sense to me. Issues mentioned by Rudolph should be sorted out before anyone bids but I do like the idea of an all inclusive contract. But for 15 years - not - it's business, not married.
Rudolf Martin July 20, 2012 at 10:00 PM
I am not sure that short term deals are practical for comprehensive municipal waste contracts since the companies have to set up infrastructure. many cities have 15+ year contracts. Athens' competitors will offer similar comprehensive services. I don't see anything wrong with letting other companies put in bids as well and I'm not sure prices will go up, as duran and d'amico were concerned about. the truck fleets have been converted to natural gas which is dirt cheap and will stay dirt cheap. also the recycling business is getting more and more efficient and profitable. waste is a valuable resource these days. and let's not forget that the NRDC and a labor rep came to the cc meeting to speak out against Athens' practices. i really hope mayor prang will look into these serious concerns before considering swinging the vote back toward Athens.

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