CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland has elected to opt out of its current garbage disposal contract and put the service up for bid.
The Cleveland City Council voted 5-2 last week to end a 10-year agreement with Waste Connections. The contract allows for an opt-out option at the end of the fifth year of service, which will occur Dec. 31. Santek, the waste service company that manages the Bradley County Landfill, requested a chance to bid on the disposal contract in a meeting with the City Council last month.
The issue divided the council, with the possible savings resulting from the competitive bidding process pitted against Waste Connections' service and pricing history.
"If we put it out for bid, we might save money, but it's a gamble," said Councilman Bill Estes, who voted against the measure along with Vice Mayor Avery Johnson.
Estes and Johnson cited residents' satisfaction with Waste Connections' service and the company's rates.
Several councilmen said they had received well over 100 calls from residents about the matter, with an overwhelming number stating their satisfaction with Waste Connections. Councilmen George Poe and Richard Banks also said that when asked, many of their callers told them that they would be agreeable to switching to a competitor if they could receive equal or better services at a better price.
"With a contract this size, I think we owe it to the citizens, owe it to our city, to put out a competitive bid," Banks said.
"I just think it's a shame that the council can't take into consideration what the residents have told you themselves -- how happy they are with the service," said Doug McGill, marketing manager for Waste Connections.
Waste Connections actively has sought to secure the five-year extension of the garbage service agreement, both in pricing and public awareness.
In November, McGill said Waste Connections would forego a Consumer Price Index increase if the city would take the five-year extension. The measure, which would have taken effect Jan. 1, would save Cleveland $35,000 annually over the next six years, or $210,000 cumulatively.
More recently, the company notified its Cleveland customers of the situation and asked them to contact the City Council to provide feedback about Waste Connections' service.
A letter from Bradley County Commission Chairman Louie Alford "sent on my behalf and other commissioners" requested that the City Council conduct a competitive bid for waste services. Alford urged them to consider that the Bradley County Landfill could earn another $60,000 to $70,000 annually if Cleveland waste is disposed there. Waste Connections now takes Cleveland garbage to McMinn County.
Going forward, Cleveland should offer a 10-year agreement as part of the upcoming waste service bidding process, City Manager Janice Casteel recommended. A long-term contract would better encourage a service provider's investment in personnel and equipment, she said.