City staff recommends change to garbage service

Based on a series of metrics including cost and “qualitative scores” the administration is recommending a change to Republic Services.

After 26 years with Waste Management, the administration is recommending a change to the city’s solid-waste contract that could see a new set of trucks picking up trash, recyclables and compost in the city for the next decade.

Based on a series of metrics including cost and “qualitative scores” for issues like customer service and the ability to transition to a contractor billing model, the administration is recommending a change to Republic Services, despite the lowest bid coming from the current provider.

“Price isn’t the only thing the city is interested in,” Solid Waste Coordinator Linda Knight told the City Council during a presentation at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

According to Knight and Public Works Director Gregg Zimmerman, the city decided to send out a Request For Proposals (RFP) for this year’s solid waste contract in an attempt to get a better price, add services and make a change from a city-billed system to when in which the contractor handles bills and payments.

As part of the process, the city did a “pre-release,” according to Knight, including a draft RFP that was designed to allow providers to prepare, followed by the official RFP. After reviewing those, the city altered some of the requirements and asked for “Best and Final” offers from the companies to better evaluate.

They received four bids, from Waste Management, Republic, Recology and Pierce County-based Waste Connections.

Following the opening of the bids last fall, staff used a two-part evaluation process that awarded up to 80 points based on cost and an additional 20 points on the “qualitative” measures, which focused on where the proposals differed.

Republic scored the highest on the combined metrics, receiving 78 points in the cost score and 17 points on the qualitative side for a total of 95 out of 100. Waste Management received a perfect 80 on cost as their bid came in more than $20,000 lower than others but only received a score of 7 on the qualitative side for a total of 87.

The other two companies both came in with “Best and Final” bids higher than the current contract, which city officials found prohibitive, instead focusing on Waste Management and Republic for the majority of the discussion.

But city officials repeatedly pointed out that cost alone was not the only qualification.

A major concern for the city was the move from city- to contractor-billing. Because Republic has experience with that and Waste Management does not, the former company received better scores.

“We got a lot of input from other cities that have gone through it,” Zimmerman said.

Along with the move to contractor billing, the city added a few items to its service contract expectations including increased recycling, additional events and something the city called “premium commercial service,” that would eliminate additional fees for businesses if a gate had to be opened or a container had to be moved in order to be emptied.

The city also wanted extended customer service hours. Currently, call centers are available from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. The city wanted the center open until 7 p.m. on weeknights, to allow for resident to get home from work and still have time to call if they needed, and extended hours on Saturday.

As part of the “Best and Final” proposals, the Knight said the city actually reduced some of the standards to allow for greater competition, but that Republic met every standard from the beginning and never once changed.

Customer service also played heavy into the decision, with Waste Management receiving relatively low scores. In a memo recommending Republic, staff noted a “significant decline in customer service responsiveness and accuracy in the past several years” by Waste Management as well as a “refusal to provide a local customer service center.”

As part of the review, the city also checked the companies’ references with other cities and Knight reported that many of the complaints Renton has heard about Waste Management’s customer service was “confirmed by other cities,” according to Knight.

“Renton was not the only city having these issues,” she said.

The decision now moves to the council, which is expected to take up the matter during Monday’s City Council meeting. At that time, it is expected the council will choose a provider. Following that, the administration will negotiate a contract.

Councilmembers have reported being heavily lobbied by Waste Management officials and drivers since the agenda was released including the new contract and the company had more than three dozen employees in attendance at Monday’s council meeting, with several speaking about Renton feeling like family.

For residents, any change should be minimal. Since both bids came in well below the current Waste Managment contract, residents will probably see a cost reduction, though final figures will still need to be negotiated.

But aside from that, things should remain the same. Garbage and recycling pick-up will still be every other week while compost and yard waste will continue on a weekly basis. Current bins should still be usable and any special events, such as a spring clean-up will continue to be covered.