St. Pete Beach recycles a garbage collector
By AMY WIMMER, Times Staff Writer
ST. PETE BEACH -- The city invited trash collection companies to bid for the chance to collect garbage, hoping to find a better deal for residents and businesses.
One company, East Bay Sanitation Services, turned in the lowest bid for residential customers: 28 percent lower than the current rate.
But an outcry from residents led city commissioners to stick with BFI, the company that has collected trash in St. Pete Beach for at least 15 years.
"The differential here is so little that I think people would rather stay with what they know than go with something they don't know," said Peter Blank, a commissioner who voted to keep BFI.
Mayor Ward Friszolowski and Commissioner Julie Christman voted to hire East Bay, citing concerns with the legalities of the bidding process. City Attorney Jim Devito advised commissioners that they must select the lowest bidder who meets the qualifications for the job.
"I'm not comfortable with this city sending something out to bid and then getting a winner fair and square and then ... not honoring that process," Christman said. After the vote to hire East Bay failed 2-3, Christman supported hiring BFI, which passed 4-1. Friszolowski voted against hiring BFI.
Commissioner Kevan Finch asked how obligated the city is to select the lowest bidder, and Blank said he had received a torrent of phone calls urging the city to keep its trash collection contract with BFI. He said the sentiment he heard most often was "Please don't take BFI away from me."
"If that many people took the time to express their opinion, I sincerely believe ... that people are saying that unless there's a tremendous amount of difference in this bidding, we want BFI," Blank said.
Garbage collection will remain similar to what it is now. Trash is collected Tuesdays and Fridays, recycling is collected Fridays, and yard waste is collected Wednesdays.
Under the new contract, both garbage and yard waste will be collected Tuesdays and Fridays; BFI will not run trucks in St. Pete Beach on Wednesdays. Recycling pickup will remain unchanged.
While workers currently will walk to back or side yards to collect trash, under the new contract that service will be provided only to customers who pay an additional fee.
Commissioners also expressed concern that they didn't know what they were getting into when they agreed to solicit bids for garbage collection service. "I was under the impression that we were not obligated to make our judgment solely on the lowest bid," Commissioner Lolly Kreider said.
By putting the garbage contract out to bid and selecting BFI, commissioners saved residents and businesses an estimated $950,000 over the life of the contract, which could be as long as five years and nine months.
That figure would have been closer to $1.3-million had commissioners selected East Bay.
Amount residential customers now pay BFI per month for once-a-week pickup of yard waste and recycling, and twice-a-week pickup of trash. Price includes back-door pickup for residents who do not take their garbage to the curb.
What customers would pay per month under the new BFI contract. Yard waste would be picked up the same day as the trash. Back-door pickup would no longer be included in the price. Residents can pay an additional $3 fee if they want the back-door pickup.
Amount customers would have paid per month for the same service as the new BFI contract had commissioners agreed to hire East Bay instead. Residents could have paid an additional $3.98 if they wanted the back-door pickup.
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