Here’s The Scoop … A “Wheel” Of A Deal? … LBTS Town Manager & Commission Looking For Alternatives Along With Others …
December 10, 2010 by Barbara
WHEELABRATOR … DEAL OR NO DEAL? ….
Dear Readers … at the Dec. 7, 2010 Commission meeting we were pitched with a presentation from Waste Management and an attorney for the Broward Recovery Board to give us their sales pitch on why we want to jump on board by year’s end to join in on the new Interlocal Agreement for cities to retain the service but change the players at the table thus taking the county out and putting the cities in the driver’s seat of future decisions with equal representation which is run by nine at the present time …. The new board will meet twice a year and make determinations for every issue $100,00 and over in the 10 year commitment being sought ….He delved into the recycling issue speaking of a 75% credit by 2012 unlikely to be found elsewhere…He spoke of the “put or pay” under the present agreement that requires the need to make up for shortfalls …He added we would receive a signing bonus of $72,857.97 for signing up by Dec. 31st…. He said there was a question in the backup for this meeting about not joining the district and either waiting to see if a better price was coming …He stated the cost offered to us was $47.75 per ton plus a service fee that would not be in excess of $12… He spoke of Hallandale looking for alternatives three months ago and stating that was $62…He ended by saying prices will not be lower elsewhere…(The Town Manager later commented the cost of both the fee and the service charge were comparable to Hallandale…and she was correct when you added the tonnage to the service charge)… Tony from Waste Management gave a similar speech to one I recall when we were looking at other companies telling us all we have “dealing with a system that works”…We “never had a problem” ..and “Landfills are passe’”..He spoke of “environmental sustainability”..That his is a “proven system”..There would be “no blip” …If it’s not broken etc…and it’s worth to “us” and Broward county…
Most observers such as this writer would think the attorney really did a good job …so well that without the details to counter it seemed to be a no brainer ..full of positive changes for our town and the consumers …That is until the Mayor asked for questions from the Commission…
Comm. Sasser began…He said he understood that the savings are contingent upon a certain number of participants and the percentage of tonnage and the attorney responded he understood correctly…He asked why the tipping fee was up this year and the attorney spoke of the original Interlocal Agreement in the 1980s and it being new technology they were not sure of….the tipping fees were raised in accordance with the present agreement and he added the cost were there to pay off the revenue bonds .. Tony from Waste Management added that it would take five hundred million dollars to replace this type of facility today…Commissioner Sasser followed up with asking about the price being guaranteed …and the attorney told him the in and outs of it not being more than a 5% increase …that will have “brakes” attached and if it goes over what is agreed upon we can get out of the agreement …again stating every municipality will have a vote…Comm. Sasser asked if each vote counts the same and the attorney stated they do and they don’t due to the majority of the tonnage based on those at the meetings and participating…Big and small will be “protected” by meeting at those meetings going forth with a new agreement…
Comm. Clottey passed after stating Comm.Sasser had asked her questions…
Comm. Vincent (in what would be the first of many times throughout this evening while looking at his computer screen) threw out numbers about the percentages and asked if it could not go higher than 5% in one year why were they talking about going up 10% ..The attorney explained the district was responsible if unforeseen charges were added due to environmental requirements based on the cost of living then it be more than 10% if it goes up over 40% over the life of the commitment we can leave Wheelabrator…Comm. Vincent wanted to know if the attorney or Waste Management were aware of anything coming through…The attorney answered he was not aware of anything “coming down the pike”… Comm. Vincent pushed on by asking for “lead time” for such charges in making us aware …Tony from Waste Management responded he could not answer that …it is an unknown…Comm. Vincent went on to ask about the tipping fee of $62 currently…The attorney corrected him by stating currently the fee is $99 and will go up each year until 2013 unless the amendments are mandated for it to go down… Comm. Vincent asked if it would be equitable across the board and Tony replied there would be a 40% reduction August of next year…The attorney added we would have control of any hidden expenses due to having a vote …Comm. Vincent spoke of the present ILA and disposal of hazardous waste at no additional cost and if we will have other options and costs…The attorney repeated his Hallandale scenario of 3 months ago not getting a better deal…
Vice Mayor Dodd said he was a “bit puzzled” over the statements he was being presented with of the “good intentions of the ILA”..He spoke of the municipalities paying $100 rather than $47 and the fact that Wheelabrator is enjoying excess revenues of 59.4%…He asked why they did not reduce it..The attorney quickly responded he could not speak to the returns to private company (Waste Management) and added the higher rate is due to the present agreement for the construction of the new facilities in the 80s…He added that in the last 3-4 years prior to 2008 the district was getting revenue and turning it back to “certain towns”…hence the “put or pay” he spoken of earlier …He spoke of the bonds and the obligation…Those bonds he said were paid off two separate times…He spoke further of the “put or pay” and how a worsened economy led to the districts paying to counter for the loss of tonnage..The new agreement he said does away with that…He went back yet again to bring up Hallandale stating the “proof is in the pudding” and they have a better rate than LBTS can get for trucking it out to central Florida to go in a landfill…
Town Manager Hoffmann chime in to state she “shared in others’ frustrations…She added that those who stayed out of the ILA over the last 25 years saved “tens of millions “ …She shared the Vice Mayor’s view…
The Mayor said they should move with the recommendation of staff to go further with their research… Comm. Sasser made the motion to accept the staff’s recommendation and VM Dodd made the 2nd …It passed 5-0 …
The next item on the agenda was public comments and there were no public comments this evening…
BC- Interesting there were no public comments this evening when this was addressed as well as sewer rates ordinance 1st reading …no comments at that either and there were no public comments made concerning parking exemption/suspension or notice of intent resolution for parking & signage…making the NOI something that should be removed as it is only a slowing of government as witnessed once again tonight and acknowledged by the TAtty on the dais in response to a question on that being the effect from Comm. Sasser …Doing away with the NOI is on the Dec. 14th Roundtable put on by VM Dodd….
Comm. Clottey asked that the staff recommendation be read …and it was…The recommendation is to look further at alternatives to Wheelabrator and forgo the Dec. 31st bonus of $72,000+ …
BC-We were not alone in forgoing the bonus …and not alone in our concerns over this new deal brought to us by the Broward County Commission …. The articles below from Dec.6th and 8th showsthe “no- bid deal” made by the Broward County Commission in place before the recent elections and how after the election and on the same day we had this presentation they too “balked” along with other municipalities …..
Full text with link to articles online below….
“December 6, 2010 at 5:09 am by Dan Christensen
$1.5 billion no-bid garbage deal roils Broward cities; county votes on disposal restructuring
By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
Oakland Park Vice Mayor Suzanne Boisvenue
A little-noticed power play that could substantially affect how much most Broward residents pay to dispose of their garbage through the next decade is set for a preliminary vote Tuesday at the Broward County Commission.
Wheelabrator, the private company that owns and operates the county’s two waste-to-energy plants, is pushing for early approval of a lucrative new agreement that would allow it to handle trash for 26 Broward cities for at least 10 years. The current agreement expires in 2013.
But the enormity of the $1.5-billion deal, and the fact that it was not competitively bid despite the high cost of trash disposal, has led some savings-minded cities to consider pulling out of the 26-city municipal coalition formed in 1986 to deal with Broward’s solid waste problem. If enough cities balk, the deal could collapse or perhaps lead to further price concessions from Wheelabrator.
What happens will be determined by a series of votes by the county and municipal members of the Broward Solid Waste Disposal District on whether to approve a new inter-local agreement (ILA). Wheelabrator’s parent, Waste Management, is dangling the incentive of a scaled “signing bonus” to cash-strapped cities who sign up before Dec. 31.
At the county, the vote won’t merely be on whether to give conditional approve the new ILA on behalf of the unincorporated areas. At the same time, county records show that commissioners will decide whether to transform the now county-dependent disposal district into an independent body with the ability to issue bonds and levy a special assessment.
Miramar and Oakland Park are two cities that think they can get significantly better deals elsewhere. And at least one other, Lauderhill, wants to think about it, too.
Miramar’s city commission voted 3-2 last week to pass up its opportunity for a $725,000 “signing bonus” by deferring approval and instructing staff to seek competitive bids from other companies that have expressed interest in the work.
“This is a very rare opportunity for us to test the free market for solid waste disposal service that could return greater benefits to the city,” said Miramar public works director Thomas Good.
Oakland Park, where public works officials have said the city can save upward of a half-a-million dollars a year if they go out to bid, appears poised to take a similar route.
At Wednesday’s Oakland Park commission meeting, City Manager John Stunson questioned the legality of the bonus payments, which vary based on how many tons of garbage cities generate. And a majority of his commissioners balked openly at approving the ILA and re-upping with Wheelabrator, which has long held a monopoly.
“I’m outraged that 20 years have gone by without a bid, and they want to do it again for another 10 years? And another 10 years after that? You tell me how that’s in the best interest of the residents of Broward County,” said Vice Mayor Suzanne Boisvenue after the meeting.
The city commission votes Dec. 15 on whether to accept or reject the new ILA and a potential $420,000 signing bonus.
On Thursday, Lauderhill commissioners agreed to hold a workshop on Dec. 13 to study the matter.
“I like to explore all options,” said Vice Mayor Howard Berger. “What Miramar has done sounds reasonable.”
To become effective, the proposed ILA must meet two thresholds. The cities that approve it must represent at least 51 percent of the population of all the cities in the current ILA, and at least 80 percent of the waste delivered to the waste-to-energy plants in 2009.
The chief administrator of the Resource Recovery Board, the governing body of the Broward Solid Waste Disposal District, said balking cities have been misled by their public works staffs into thinking they can get a better deal elsewhere.
“The staff presentation in Miramar was very flawed,” said RRB executive director Ron Greenstein, also a former state legislator. “We are far cheaper than anyone else because of our economies of scale.”
Through last week, 13 cities including Hollywood, Plantation and Coral Springs had approved the new ILA and qualified for bonuses. Fort Lauderdale and Lauderdale Lakes vote Tuesday. Deerfield Beach votes next week, according to Greenstein.
At least some of the undecided may be affected by what happens Tuesday at county hall. An initial vote to approve the ILA would demonstrate county support for the non-competitive deal the RRB negotiated with Wheelabrator and confidence in its ability to act independently. It would also net a $165,000 signing bonus for the county.
Such institutional change would mark the second defection this year of a large, big money agency from under the direct control of county government. The disgruntled Metropolitan Planning Organization, Broward’s federally-funded transportation planning group, became independent in August.
Influential members of the county’s Resource Recovery Board – including Weston Mayor Eric Hersh and Broward Commissioner Ilene Lieberman – have pushed quietly for district autonomy for months. Lieberman also serves as RRB chair. The nine-member RBB, which includes eight municipal elected officials, is the governing body that controls the district’s waste flow and sets its disposal fees.
The switch to independence is included in the ILA proposal the county commission considers Tuesday.
“The key implication of this change in status would be that the budget of the district would no longer be approved by the county commission,” says a county staff analysis of the issue. “The district does have the ability to levy a special assessment…but is generally funded by the tipping fees paid by waste haulers.”
County staff recommends passage, conditioned upon certain assurances from the district regarding about potential future liabilities and approval by enough cities to meet the required threshold.
Still, there is little or no discussion in the 12-page staff analysis as to why such a change is needed or the possible pros and cons.
Oakland Park’s Boisvenue, who is also a member of the RRB, opposes independent status.
“I think it needs oversight from the county. When you talk about this kind of money, you’ve got to wonder why this is necessary and who’s going to benefit,” she said.”
Dec. 8, 2010
“By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
Unhappy that a sweeping ten-year, $1.5 billion trash deal was negotiated without competitive bidding, Broward commissioners on Tuesday refused to approve the pact until they can justify how much residents and businesses will be charged.
The 5-4 vote also asked county staff to get Waste Management to pony up more money in the deal for the county.
“They have to give us some cover on why this is a better deal and why we should not go out for bid,” said Vice Mayor John Rodstrom.
The vote was a significant blow to Waste Management’s hopes of securing early approval of a lucrative new inter-local agreement (ILA) that envisions handling trash for 26 Broward cities for 10 years, with an option for 10 more years after that. It also revealed a lack of support for a proposal to restructure Broward’s Solid Waste Disposal District as an independent district with the power to issue bonds and levy a special assessment.
Wheelabrator, the Waste Management subsidiary that operates the county’s two waste-to-energy plants, has offered “signing bonuses” worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to cash-starved cities that sign off on the deal by Dec. 31. The current ILA expires in 2013. Five cities, including Pembroke Pines and Hallandale Beach, do not participate.
Through last week, 13 cities had approved the new agreement. But municipal jitters about the no-bid deal have caused several cities to consider bolting the district, a regional coalition formed in 1986 to deal with Broward’s trash disposal problem.
Miramar voted last week to pass up its $725,000 bonus and seek competitive bids from other trash haulers that might save it a lot more. Commissioners in Oakland Park, told by staff that they can save more than $500,000 by going out to bid, have indicated they may do the same. Lauderhill wants further study.
To be approved, the ILA must represent at least 51 percent of the population of all the cities in the current agreement and at least 80 percent of the waste delivered to the waste-to-energy plants in 2009.
But in another problematic development, it was announced at the meeting that the county’s biggest waste producer – Fort Lauderdale – decided Tuesday night to defer its vote on whether to approve the deal until Dec. 21.
The county vote may embolden other municipal opponents of the Wheelabrator deal. But it could have been worse for Wheelabrator.
At one point, commissioners voted to scrap the negotiated agreement with Wheelabrator altogether. They pulled back at the urging of Ron Greenstein, executive director of the county’s Resource Recovery Board.
A majority of the commission was clearly focused on finding a better deal for Broward residents. But Commissioner Kristen Jacobs was a lone voice in pointing out that such a path is not environmentally friendly.
Among other things, she said that a rejection of the new ILA would mean the county would have to truck its solid waste to upstate landfills. And that would undermine Broward’s vaunted recycling system, she said.”
more to come….