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Mark Richardson is a multimedia journalist, editor and writer who has worked in digital, print and broadcast media for three decades. He is a nationally recognized editor and reporter who has covered government, politics and the environment. A journalism graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, he was recently awarded a Foundation for Investigative Journalism grant and has three Associated Press Managing Editors awards for excellence in reporting.
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Commission urges Council to toss MRF recommendation, start over
City Council members will hear today that city staff is recommending they choose Allied Waste Services to partner with the city to build a new Single Stream Recycling materials recovery facility. Members will also hear from the Solid Waste Advisory Commission, which is urging them to reject that recommendation and start the process over again.
Commission members approved a resolution Wednesday night calling the process used to choose Allied “flawed” and urged the Council to negate the results of the recent RFP and have staff rewrite the criteria.
“We are asking them to reject the recommendation and to start a second process – and get it done quickly,” said commission Co-Chair Rick Cofer, who offered the resolution. “The Council has an information deficit in making this decision. They haven’t been able to read the proposals to know whether the company being recommended is the right one.”
Several environmental groups backed the commission’s resolution, including the Austin Zero Waste Alliance, the Northeast Neighbors Coalition, and the Texas Campaign for the Environment. The groups say that BFI, a subsidiary of Allied likely to be involved in operating the recycling facility, has been cited numerous times by state and federal officials for permit violations at the landfill it operates in Northeast Austin. They have been battling BFI over the landfill for several years.
Solid Waste Services Director Bob Gedert addressed the commission earlier in the evening and reviewed the criteria used to choose from among the three finalists for the contract, Allied, Waste Management Recycle America, and Balcones Recycling. The city received proposals from eight firms as a result of a request for proposal for the project issued several months ago (See In Fact Daily, June 8, 2010)
Gedert said Allied came out on top because the community values in its proposal were ranked superior by the 12-member review team, and its project was the only one that projected positive net revenue for the city over the first 10 years of operations.
The resolution made several points, including that there was insufficient input from the public in the MRF process, that a new Solid Waste Services director (Gedert) took office in the middle of the process and did not have proper input, and that the evaluation matrix did not properly weight the applicants’ proposals for community involvement.
The resolution specifically calls for the Council to:
- Refrain from authorizing the awarding of a contract or negotiations for a contract for the facility under the current RFP;
- Launch an expedited process allowing the city to seek a short-term contract to handle its recycling operations; and
- Direct city staff to collaborate with stakeholders and report back to Council in two weeks with a revised process to select a long-term MRF partner.
The commission voted 4-0 to approve the resolution, with Member Bob Schafer abstaining and Chair Gerry Acuña recused for the discussion. The Council is scheduled to consider action on the MRF recommendation at today’s meeting.
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