The city of Fort Worth decided not to waste time asking whether other companies could pick up residents’ trash and recycling for less.

Instead, the City Council voted unanimously on Nov. 9 to extend a contract with Waste Management valued at nearly $479 million over 12 years.

This comes despite at least one company, FCC Environmental Services, estimating it could save the city $60 million in that time period.

Assistant City Manager Valerie Washington said in an interview with the Fort Worth Report before the council meeting that it is easy for competitors to make such claims when they don’t have to back them up. She thinks the city got the best deal it could under the circumstances.

But Erica Holloway, FCC Environmental Services’ director of public and governmental affairs, questioned how Washington could know that.

“Fair and open competition is what makes the economy go round, and the only way to know for certain you’re getting the best deal is to test the marketplace,” Holloway said. 

Four of nine City Council members the Fort Worth Report reached before the vote echoed Washington’s points.

Chris Nettles, who represents District 8, said he liked that Waste Management subcontracted with Knight Waste Services, a minority-owned local business. 

He and Cary Moon, who represents District 4, were also pleased with Waste Management’s customer service and that it had agreed to waive the consumer price index adjustment for fiscal year 2022, they said. 

City staff wrote in a memo that it expects this waiver to save the city $18.5 million over the life of the contract extension.

What swayed Carlos Flores, who represents District 2, was Waste Management’s proposal to add cameras to its trucks. This will help the city’s bottom line, he said.

“We spend a lot of staff time and resources trying to ascertain missed trash pickups. The cameras will help us capture that information on the front end,” Flores said. 

Waste Management will install the cameras and train its personnel on how to use them by May 1, 2022, according to the contract extension term sheet; “however, it will not be in breach or default if, due to uncontrollable circumstances, it does not meet the May 1, 2022 date.”

Other changes to the contract include a requirement to pick up missed trash and recycling within 24 hours and missed yard waste and bulk waste within 36 hours. If Waste Management fails to pick these up within that time frame, it would be considered “a priority one collection.” The company must strive to reduce this type of collection by 20% for trash and recycling and 10% for yard waste and bulk waste. It also must meet other goals set each quarter by the city to avoid $60 fines for missed collections.  

The contract extension allows the city to fine Waste Management if it misses three daily collection routes in a month. The fine would be $300 per missed route collection.

A consultant for the city initially estimated going out for bids could save the city between 7 to 10%. Now, that same consultant says he is unsure whether there will be significant savings in the marketplace because COVID-19 has caused inflation, labor shortages and supply chain issues. City staff also said putting the contract out for bids would take an additional six months.

“Again, I think it’s easier for a competitor to say, ‘Yep, we can come in and do it for way cheaper,’ but understanding the structure of our solid waste and how we do it here in the city of Fort Worth, that’s a hefty ask. We ask for a lot from our vendors, especially when it comes to our solid waste services and our diversion-based strategies. We want to preserve the life of the landfill,” Washington said.

The council had until Nov. 30 to approve this contract extension or the new terms would become null and void.

Jessica Priest is an investigative journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at jessica.priest@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Jessica Priest

Jessica Priest is Fort Worth Report's government and accountability reporter. She was previously on USA TODAY's regional investigative team. After Jessica reported that a Midland County prosecutor worked...

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