Solid waste contract awarded to Waste Management

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After years of struggle and strife, county commissioners have approved a contract for a single, county-wide trash hauler.

The contract for solid waste services in the unincorporated parts of the county was awarded to Waste Management on a 4-1 vote.

A start date for services of April 1, 2013, is contained in the contract, and customers will pay $13.88 for one 96-gallon bin at their residence. The county will also impose a $2.50 administrative fee, bringing the monthly total for trash service to $16.38 per customer.

Commissioner Ron Gentry made the motion to offer the contract to the nationwide company, and Commissioner Mary Andersen seconded.

The fee also passed on a 4-1 vote. It will be used to administer the contract, hire a code enforcement officer to enforce the terms of the contract and to pay for the clean up of existing illegal dumping sites.

Commissioner Georgia Otero-Kirkham voted no on both items.

"I voted 'no' because we are going to a large hauler who, even though they have promised to hire local and locate an office here, is not local. I hope they do that," Otero-Kirkham said. "During my eight years here, I have always wanted to keep local, to have the county go with local business, buy supplies local. So in my own conscious, I had to vote no."

Saying he felt the same, Commission Chairman Donald Holliday said, "We need to try to move forward on something positive for the community."

County purchasing agent Mike Vinyard thanked the commissioners and public for their support of the solid waste procurement.

"I see this as a significant win," Vinyard said.

Otero-Kirkham said she as glad to see part of the administrative fee going toward cleaning up the existing illegal dumping problems in the county.

"I would like people to let me know if locals are hired and if things in the contract are getting done," she said.

Commissioner Mary Andersen said in the eight years she's served on the commission, this was something that was "desperately needed. If you drive around and look at our roads and arroyos, this all happens because of our inability to provide the right kind of trash disposal in the county. I know this won't go down well in some places, but I think in the long run, everyone will be grateful."

After the meeting, County Manager Bruce Swingle said he and the commissioners looked at this contract as "a very positive step forward for Valencia County. It's an affordable solution. If the illegal dumping stopped right now, it would cost $4 million to clean up."

The contract calls for weekly, residential curbside pick up of solid waste, an optional single-stream recycling plan for $3.50 a month, two bulk item pick ups a year and six annual community clean ups.

Under the agreement, Waste Management will also take over operations of the county-owned Conejo Transfer Station on Manzano Expressway, as well as construct a second transfer station in the county within the next 36 months.

Following the meeting Vinyard called the process a "textbook procurement. Things went very smoothly but it was labor intensive. Because of the two failed attempts before, I paid special attention to make sure there was a level playing field that allowed everyone to compete."

In a written statement from Waste Management, the company says it will work closely with the county to develop a thorough operations and communications strategic plan that outlines key information of the new waste and recycling service.

That plan will include communications to customers, timelines for cart deliveries, service dates, and an understanding of collection procedures and what is recyclable.

"Waste Management's goal is to make the change as streamlines and seamless as possible so that exceptional quality service continues to be delivered throughout the county," the statement says.

During the public comments prior to the executive session to discuss the solid waste contract, two county residents asked the commissioners to table the matter — a local hauler and one commissioner-elect.

Charles Montoya, owner and operator of Jarales-based AC Disposal, said when his company sent out its most recent invoices, they included a petition.

The petition read, in part, "What that means for our current customers is that we will no longer be able to service you as you no longer have the option to choose your hauler. We are asking that if you disagree with this decision, please sign and fill out the form below …"

Of the 1,000-plus bills sent out, Montoya said he has received 360 back.

"I think we only got that because we didn't put return dates on them, and people are probably waiting until they pay their bill at the beginning of the month," Montoya said.

"A lot of our customers do not know what is going on and do want choice. I am asking you to table this and let the new commissioners come in and review the RFP to see if they can make some changes for local haulers. We are going to be put out of business."

Otero-Kirkham asked how many residential trash customers AC had. Montoya said he had about 1,100 to 1,200 customers in Valencia County.

Otero-Kirkham said there had been several public hearing meetings on the solid waste RFP and that the county was seeking a single hauler.

"When people say they don't know what's going on, they need to remember we had several public meetings and hearings," Otero-Kirkham said.

Commissioner-elect for District 4 Charles Eaton said there was one agenda item he was "a little nervous about, and that's solid waste.

"It's an important item. It was important when I was on the commission," Eaton said. "I discussed this with many constituents when I was campaigning in Los Chavez and northern Adelino.

"I believe Mr. Vinyard was very precise with the RFP. I believe his process was real defined and thorough, but I'm not sure some of the concerns that were brought up have been thoroughly addressed.

"I would ask the commission to table this to get some additional information. Maybe have the same presentations that were shown to you, shown to us and give us the chance to weigh in on the contract at the beginning of the year."

Also during public comments, Ernie Byers, owner of New Mexico Disposal, presented the commissioners with a letter from his attorney.

Byers handed the document to Chairman Holliday, saying Tomé attorney Amavalise Jaramillo asked him to deliver the notice.

"He wanted it to be part of the record. Maybe you can discuss it in executive session," Byers said.

After a brief review of the letter, Holliday said it "looked like something for the attorneys," and handed it over to county attorneys Dave Pato and Adren Nance.

Jaramillo's letter, written on behalf of his client, New Mexico Disposal, asked the commissioners to table the matter and "redo the evaluation proposals responsive to the RFP for residential waste services in compliance with the Open Meetings Act."

In the letter, Jaramillo says that the procedures the county followed in appointing the three-person procurement committee to score the responses appear to be in conflict with the state's Open Meetings Act, "because the public did not have notice and an opportunity to be heard" on the matter of the appointment of the committee members.

The OMA allows for the public to "attend and listen to" deliberations of public bodies. It makes no requirement for the attendees "to be heard."

The committee consisted of Finance Director Nick Telles, Environmental Coordinator Sara Schnell and Public Works Director Kelly Bouska.

To support his argument, Jaramillo cites sections 10-15-1 (B), (C) and (D) of the OMA.

Section 10-15-1 (B) defines meetings that are required to be open to the public, unless otherwise they are exceptions to OMA requirements.

According to the OMA compliance guide, this section applies to a meeting of a quorum of a policy-making body held for the purpose of formulating public policy, discussing public business or taking any action that the body has authority to take.

Section 10-15-1 (C) covers telephone conferences during public meetings and section (D) speaks to notice requirements for public meetings.

Jaramillo goes on to argue that even though "the commission delegated its authority to evaluate the proposals to a "procurement committee," that does not insulate the appointment process of those members from the requirements.

"Thus, any action taken without the required notice would be invalid as a matter (of) law," he writes, citing section 10-15-3 (A).

That provision of the act establishes a presumption that actions taken by public bodies have been taken at meetings that conform to the requirements of the OMA, and if it is shown that that is not the case, the actions of the public body may be held invalid.

And while the OMA does contain exceptions to open meetings for limited purposes in the context of procurement, Jaramillo writes that New Mexico Disposal believes the exceptions do not apply in this case.

The section Jaramillo cites says that a public body can discuss two types of purchases in closed session — purchases that exceed $2,500 and purchases that can be made from one source.

The final action on any such closed session discussion must be made in an open meeting.

"Said exceptions are inapplicable because residential trash pick-up services is not limited to one source and because the contents of the sealed bids were not discussed by the procurement committee," Jaramillo writes, again citing OMA section 10-15-3 (A).


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.