Friday, June 25, 2010

Commission Meeting on Waste Management

During the Commission Meeting on June 23, 2010, the Contract for trash hauling and pick up with Waste Management was extended for another three years.

This was written into the contract and was the path of least resistance.  After having at least three Refuse companies come up during public comments wanting to have the contract put out for bid, and having various residents and business owners sing the praises of Waste Management, the city took this action.  To paraphrase Commissioner Ted Galatis: Nobody came up in a timely manner when the city needed an RFP.

Come back in three years. 

One of the other companies had a deal with something that I had used in Philadelphia that I truly hope we can get written into the next RFP.  I know I'll mention this to some of the Commissioners when I do some more research.  There is a process where a separate recycling bin is given to the residents.  The recycling is picked up in a large green bin, mechanically by a specialized truck just like Waste Management uses now.  The City is given a payment from the company, the residents are paid in discount coupons, and the recycling happens painlessly.  There was a payment to parties done on a basis of weight of recycling picked up at the curb.  We all had accounts that we could log into and see what we were earning - all just for doing the right thing, Recycling.   By the time I moved out of Philadelphia, I was recycling more than I was throwing out in trash on a weekly basis.  I was actively looking at the packaging of what I was buying in order to try to minimize waste and increase recycling.

This company was the Recycle Bank, and the entire city of Philadelphia were participants.  I Highly recommend this!  You can read their FAQ here.

One issue that I find troubling is that trash hauling in this city is basically a hidden tax upon the residents.  We pay a fee to the city who contracts with Waste Management for the services.  The services from what I see personally are excellent.  I've watched them pick up trash from my front room and when we have had spills I have seen the person get out of the truck and pick things up from the ground and place them in the cans.  I didn't see that level of care happen in any other city I lived in. 

I have no complaints about Waste Management as a company or their services.

My concern is that Waste Management pays back to the City approximately $360,000 per year in "franchise fees".  In round numbers that works out to approximately $28 per person paid out in commissions to the city as a hidden tax.  If you assume that households are on average a little more than two people per dwelling and that businesses are also required to use Waste Management as a franchise, I think it is reasonable to say that that number is about half - so basically every business and home owner is paying out an Average Estimate of $56 back to the city.  This really should be cut out and if the City needs that money to survive, either adjust the tax rates or cut expenses or both.

Sure, raise taxes... that will go over well, right?   Well that comes from an accounting background.  If the residents and businesses demand a service, the city will provide and do so at a fair cost.  We the citizens pay for those services with taxes.  It is all part of living in a modern representative democracy.  It also is something that should be priced correctly so that fees don't exist where they should be covered as a tax.  Probably nothing more than a philosophical difference on my part.

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