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City’s waste collection problem solved

Tuesday, March 3, 2020 by Jo Clifton

According to a memo from Deputy Procurement Officer Shawn Willett, the city of Austin now has three short-term contracts for the disposal of refuse, recycling, brush and compostable materials.

The city’s procurement team and members of Austin Resource Recovery scrambled last week to find contractors who would be willing to provide waste collection services on a short-term basis, with the proviso that none of the waste would go to the Austin Community Landfill. That contract covered waste coming from city facilities, not neighborhood refuse or recycling.

After hearing from angry neighbors about the offensive odors, noise and other nuisances created by the landfill, Council rejected a short-term contract with Waste Management at its Feb. 20 meeting. The city’s contract with Waste Management expired on Feb. 28. Several Council members expressed surprise and dismay that staff would bring them another contract resulting in more waste going into the Waste Management landfill. They made clear that whatever staff decided, it should not include more waste going to the Northeast Austin site.

Because of concerns about the landfill, both the Zero Waste Commission and the Electric Utility Commission unanimously recommended rejecting the contract, while the Water and Wastewater Commission recommended approval.

According to Willett’s memo, staffers asked Waste Management if it could provide the same service on a short-term basis that it had been providing – without using the Austin Community Landfill. The answer was no. So, staffers asked four other firms if they could provide the needed services without using that landfill.

Unsurprisingly, Texas Disposal Systems and Central Waste and Recycling both said that they could provide the requested services. Staff executed three short-term contracts last week “in order to ensure uninterrupted services to all city facilities.” One contract is with Waste Management, but the memo explains it will only last for one to two weeks and “only to facilitate their removal of containers.”

The city manager has signed short-term contracts with TDS and Central Waste and staff will ask Council to authorize an additional amount of time for the two companies to do waste collection at city facilities on a month-to-month basis for up to six months. The total combined amount is expected to be not more than $534,000, according to Willett.

In the meantime, staff members continue to work on a solicitation for a new long-term contract for those services.

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