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ZWAC approves organics processing contract with lackluster contingency plan

Monday, February 13, 2017 by Joseph Caterine

In line with City Council’s plans to expand curbside compost collection, the Zero Waste Advisory Commission voted at its Feb. 8 meeting to approve staff’s recommendation of Organics By Gosh, the only bidder on the request for proposal released by Council last year, for a 36-month, $1,510,000 contract to provide additional organics processing services. The city currently collects compost from 14,300 homes and plans to extend its reach to 180,000 more homes over the next four years.

Commissioner Chair Gerry Acuna said that he was very concerned about the lack of a contingency plan for weather emergencies or other unforeseen catastrophes as part of By Gosh’s proposal. “To me, a contingency plan is absolutely the most important part of this (program’s) success,” he said.

Interim Austin Resource Recovery Director Sam Angoori said that in the past, like during the Onion Creek floods, the city has hired out contractors and has managed surges. “I do not have that contingency plan, but I believe it can be done,” he said.

A contingency plan was required as part of the RFP, but because By Gosh was the only company to submit a proposal, staff did not have any other options.

By Gosh currently has one facility that has been blending compost into various soil mixtures since 2012 and has filed permits to bring on another facility. As part of ARR’s approved budget, compost collection was to be expanded to 38,000 additional homes in June of this year. Acuna asked By Gosh owner Phil Gosh if both facilities would be operational by then. “Absolutely,” Gosh said.

Acuna followed up by asking Gosh if he had submitted a contingency plan as part of the proposal.

“We have JV (Environmental Services) that we’ve talked to and have a relationship with,” Gosh responded.

“(JV) is not comfortable composting,” Acuna replied, “because of the odor issues.”

“We do have a contingency plan,” Gosh said, “it’s very clear.”

“I think what the chair is referring to is the score on the matrix that you might not be aware of,” Commissioner Joshua Blaine said. “It was very low on the contingency plan.”

According to the matrix, By Gosh scored one out of five possible points on the contingency plan section. “So there was maybe not all the information that needed to be there,” Gosh said.

ARR Finance Division Manager Jessica Frazier clarified that a low score on the evaluation did not necessarily mean it was a bad bid. “The person evaluating maybe didn’t like the language that they used or didn’t think that they explained it well enough,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not viable, otherwise we wouldn’t be moving forward.”

Commissioner Kaiba White made a motion to approve staff’s recommendation with the condition that all relevant permits and registrations are completed before signing of the contract and that no biosolids will be mixed with food waste or food waste compost. Vice Chair Cathy Gattuso seconded, and the motion passed 7-0-2, with Acuna and Commissioner Stacy Savage abstaining.

This story has been corrected. We originally reported that the city plans to expand its composting program to 90,000 homes over the next four years. In fact, the plan is to expand the program to 180,000 homes.

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