From the Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County
29 March 2010
It doesn’t take knowledge of rocket science to operate a landfill. Whatever Waste Management (WM), Republic/Southland, or anyone else in the garbage disposal industry may want the people of Jacksonville and their City Council to believe, spreading out household trash and covering it with dirt really is something that anyone able to operate a dump truck and bulldozer can do. While it may or may not be the kind of civic duty Jacksonville cares to perform using its own employees, there is nothing so special about the creation of a thousand-layer trash pile that it can only be done by giving exclusive rights to do so to one outfit, without competitive bidding, for the next thirty-five years.
Wait, you say, is this a rerun column? The whole “bid the landfill” vs. “Waste Management Forever” debate was fought out last year, you remember, and won by the forces of light when City Council rejected the Mayor’s no-bid, 35 year, $750 million contract extension on running the Trail Ridge dump, right? Didn’t the City then leap at the chance to litigate with Waste Management if need be in order to establish our right to either build our own trash mound or have the low bidder do it?
Yes, that happened, but suddenly there’s a new deal proposed by the Jacksonville General Counsel that is a whole lot like the Mayor’s old deal. Call it landfill redux, deja vu all over again, or lipstick on a pig – no matter how you slice the new proposed landfill contract, it’s still (at best) last year’s baloney. Unlike last year, however, there is no time for a deliberative process at City Council. The new proposed contract (Ordinance 2010-217) demands City Council accept it by April 30, 2010, as presented, with no changes
When a group of us at the Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County (www.jaxtaxpayers.org) sued the City last year to get a ruling that Jacksonville had to either bid out a contract this huge or do the work themselves, we pointed out several legal problems in the Mayor’s tentative agreement. One provision of that proposal (still available for review at www.coj.net under Ordinance 2008-538) was an illegal clause which could have, under certain circumstances, forced the sale of the entire thousand acre Trail Ridge landfill site, and an adjacent “borrow pit” (dirt mine) site, from the City to Waste Management without any competition.
Another illegal aspect of the earlier version of the no-bid contract under state law was that it could have gone on for an indefinite period of years, since it defined WM’s right to spread garbage in terms of tons (42 million) rather than time. Interestingly, the proposed contract now thrown in front of City Council avoids these two problems by leaving out the bargain land sale provision and defining a maximum number of years that Waste Management will have the exclusive right to run the City’s landfill(s).
The new proposal essentially allows no more than ten years as the period WM would have been running the existing landfill before it would have been full, another 19 years for WM to operate any expansions or new landfill, with another possible six year extension “upon mutual agreement.” Not, in my opinion, coincidentally, this potentially 35 year agreement is the same length of time as the estimates on how long the Mayor’s earlier proposal would have run.[/cleeng_content]