Post from Commissioner Furr
December 2, 2008, 12:48 AM
Filed under: City Commission, Water-Sewer-Sanitation

Garbage & Recycling

December 2, 2008

The Balance Sheet has received this letter, dated Dec. 2, on the subject of sanitation from Commissioner Furr.

First of all, I want to thank everyone for their input. This is a work in progress and the discussion is very helpful.

As a city, we are responsible for providing the best services for the best price. Last spring, we put the garbage pick-up contract out for bid in an attempt to compare costs and service. Since then, we have received bids, analysis of bids, options, proposals and a myriad of different ideas.

The more I looked into the issue the more I came to the conclusion that going out to bid was not a good idea. In retrospect, it was short-sighted and failed to deal with the waste stream in its entirety. We should have done a request for proposals (RFP) that would have asked for a comprehensive plan to cover all aspects of garbage AND recycling. This bid did not consider recycling at all. Nor was it going to provide any incentive to divert more waste into the recycling stream. We currently recycle only 7% of our garbage. The state has mandated that we achieve 70% recycling by 2015. By simply continuing with our present arrangement we will not reach that standard.

My support of keeping the sanitation department in house was based on a number of different reasons. First and foremost, I was not prepared to lock the city into a 10 year contract that didn’t envision or encourage a more progressive attitude toward waste management. There is the need to be nimble and flexible in these changing times. The Resource Recovery Board of Broward County (they oversee the Inter Local Agreement that exists between all the cities in the county) is presently in the middle of negotiations that have far reaching ramifications for all the cities involved. I am convinced that in the long run we can do better both economically and environmentally.

We have been paying $98 a ton for tipping fees to unload our garbage. Presently, we are receiving a little over $50 a ton for recycled material. That should be changing in the near future to almost $58 a ton. As I mentioned before, we are currently recycling only 7% of our entire stream. There are tremendous economies of scale that are reachable by tipping that balance in our favor.

The only way we are going to get to that level is through a restructuring of our entire organization. We need an interim plan, however, to get us through to next year. I would like to throw these ideas out for discussion.

Beginning immediately, changing sanitation workers from 4-10 hour days to 5- 8 hour days now. Four days will continue to be used for picking up trash.

The extra day of work will allow for picking up recyclables when the present contract is up with Waste Management (August 2009). In the meantime, that extra day (Wednesday) can be used for brush pickup.

This gives us time to prepare to bring recycling back in house. We already have the trucks. We currently outsource our recycling for almost $1 million a year. The present contract with Waste Management is up in August.

From now until August 2009, we will have the opportunity to purchase and distribute 96 gallon rolling containers for recycling, retrofit the trucks to weigh recyclables and prepare the public for this plan.

Also, by that time we will be ready to institute the program by Recyclebank that will provide incentives for those to recycle. (For those wanting more details on the program, please view the presentation at the last commission meeting)[Editor’s note: brief description of program is here.]

In August, it would make sense to consider going to one day a week garbage. For those who create more garbage than one bin’s worth, it might mean an added cost for an extra container. For the rest of us, the one day a week pick up will encourage us to divert our garbage into our recycling bin. This, by itself, will help tip the scales in our favor.

If we go to one day a week pick up, we will then be able to use the other days for brush pickup as well as hard junk. Hard junk, however, will have to be “pay as you throw.” This pricing schedule needs to be refigured, ie. so much for 1 cubic yard, a little more for 2, etc… There will need to be places to drop off stuff for free.

Hopefully, by that time, we will also have figured out a place to recycle the brush to mulch. This mulch could be made available to citizens. This was very successful only a few years ago and many residents took advantage of this service.

Over the coming year, we will be renegotiating union contracts and benefits to more reflect the private sector. The comparative analysis done by the city’s consultants illustrated the gap to be far too wide between the costs of services and benefits of the public and private sectors. We are all aware of the unfunded liabilities that face us as a city. There are some major changes that need to happen across the board for all city employees, not just one department.

We will see if it is possible to not only cut costs, but to also restructure in creative ways that will do right by the citizens as well as the environment. This is a transition period. It will take cooperation. It will take a change of priorities. It requires an understanding that we can do a lot better than we have been doing. These discussions can go a long way toward achieving that goal. Thanks for listening. I look forward to your feedback.


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