Miramar busts Broward’s trash monopoly

Florida

Southeast / Florida 144 Views

By BUDDY NEVINS FloridaBulldog

PHOTO COURTESY OF FLORIDABULLDOG

A decades-long monopoly was shattered Tuesday when Miramar agreed to let an upstart company handle its waste disposal.

Homeowners and businesses in Miramar will see millions of dollars in savings over the existing waste hauling agreement with Wheelabrator Technologies.

It was the first competitive bid disposal contract in the largest Broward cities in more than 25 years.

“You brought competition into the marketplace,” Phil Medico, an executive with the low bidder Sun/Bergeron that toppled Wheelabrator’s monopoly, told commissioners.

The commission voted 5-0 to accept the low bid Tuesday despite furious lobbying by Wheelabrator and its giant parent, Waste Management.

City Manager Robert A. Payton will soon begin contract negotiations with Sun/Bergeron. If successful, the contract will come back to the city commission for a final award. If not, the city could then negotiate with Wheelabrator.

Once finalized, Miramar’s decision means other Broward cities will have the option to piggyback on its deal. They can also search for their own deal.

CONTRACT EXPIRING

Wheelabrator has since the 1980s held a lock on trash disposal in 80 percent of Broward cities with a contract that is due to expire in July 2013.

Wanting to continue its monopoly, the company two years ago offered a no-bid deal that would have extended its control of the disposal business through at least 2023. But a number of cities, including Fort Lauderdale and Miramar rejected the deal as insufficient and anti-competitive, and the county commission ultimately did, too.

The failure of the deal dealt a heavy blow to Broward’s Resource Recovery Board, which has pushed hard for it. Miramar stepped forward to become the first local government to competitively bid disposal services.

Only Wheelabrator and Sun/Bergeron submitted bids. Wheelabrator’s bid was $52.50 per ton, compared with Sun/Bergeron’s $43.25 per ton.

Several Miramar officials noted that the competitive process lowered the bid considerably from the no-bid deal originally offered by Wheelabrator. That agreement had Miramar paying $65.10 per ton climbing up to $140.21 per ton over 10 years.

County waste administrators sat in the Miramar audience Tuesday monitoring the vote, along with officials from other cities.

Broward entrepreneur Ron Bergeron, a partner in Sun/Bergeron, said his company would now consider bidding for other contracts among the cities that Wheelabrator serves.

Up to the last minute, Wheelabrator fought to overturn its competitor’s low bid. Bill Roberts, the company’s vice president for operations, reminded commissioners that the company owns two waste-to energy plants in Broward County and has a local payroll of millions.

One of the partners in Sun/Bergeron is from outside Broward — Palm Beach County’s Sun Recycling.

“We’re part of Broward County,” Roberts countered.
COMMISSIONERS IMPRESSED

But commissioners said they were impressed by Sun/Bergeron’s plan to recycle 25 percent of the waste rather than burn it, in addition to its cheaper price. Sun/Bergeron’s Medico promised commissioners that the price they offered would not increase over the five years of the contract.

Miramar sought bid proposals from March until June. Seven companies expressed interest, but only two submitted proposals.

City staff conducted an in-depth financial analysis. An evaluation team made up of executives from five different cities evaluated and, in December, ranked the proposals.

While city officials said the process followed all the rules, Waste Management has hinted that it may protest the decision.

“Its one of our options,” Wheelabrator’s Roberts said.

Wheelabrator and Sun/Bergeron had bid protest legal experts in the audience observing the vote and taking notes.

Miramar officials used words like “rare” and “revolutionary” to describe the competitive process.

“It had an impact,” said Verne Hargrey, assistant Miramar city manager, summing up the comments of the four city waste experts who addressed commissioners.

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