The Woodlands to seek options for trash collection services
Residents in The Woodlands have enjoyed low-priced trash services for many years, but that may change after The Woodlands Township board rejected a proposal to renew a five-year contract with Waste Management and will begin seeking other options for waste and recycling collection services.
In a unanimous vote, the township’s board rejected the new proposed five-year contract between the township and Waste Management that would have included a hike in per-household trash fees. Township board Member Brian Boniface did not take part in the vote after stepping away from the meeting.
The decision does not immediately affect any trash services, as the township’s contract with Waste Management for collection services for refuse, yard waste, recyclables and bulky waste collection, disposal and processing is in effect until Jan. 31, 2020.
During the Thursday, Sept. 20, meeting, the board heard information from Richard Rozier, a representative of the consulting service Solid Waste Services, which was hired by the township in late July. The firm was hired to offer several services: helping township officials negotiate a contract renewal with Waste Management and develop possible request for proposals (RFPs) for new companies to bid on the contract.
Rozier said negotiators from Solid Water Specialists had met with Waste Management officials and had received a proposal for a new five-year contract with a price increase of $3.69 per household — from $10.46 per home to $14.15 per home. However, the cost in the proposed contract increase each year, with $14.15 rate for the first year followed by rates of $14.57 in year two; $15.01 in year three; $15.46 in year four and finally, $15.93 cost per home in year five, which ends in 2024.
“(Waste Management did go back and present a proposal, that proposal came back at $14.15 (per household), and the offered 50 solar powered compactors,” Rozier said, adding in some other details. “Solid Waste Specialists went into what I’d call a very involved analysis. Then we compared that information to comparison towns and cities within Texas to see what the marketplace looked like. Our indication is the rates we came up with, indicate the rate should be somewhere in the $13 range.”
Rozier told the directors that two actions were possible for the board to consider if the proposal presented that night was not acceptable: authorize the firm to renegotiate the contract proposal with Waste Management for a lower rate; or devise a request for proposals to seek out other competing companies for the contract.
The current rate being paid is $10.46 per household, however the proposed Waste Management increase is a more than 27 percent increase in its first year alone, something that did not sit well with township directors.
Board Chairman Gordy Bunch said the dramatic rate increase was confusing, especially considering how low the rate is currently and the more than 27 percent proposed increase.
“On the current agreement, we’ve had that rate which has been obviously favorable,” Bunch said. “When I looked at your peer city analysis, there are cities in near proximity that are paying $12.”
Rozier said there are many factors involved in the cost proposal, some of which would need more research and others that are private, proprietary information only Waste Management is aware of. The cost of services involves several factors, including gas for vehicles, new equipment, labor costs and the varying costs of recycling.
“What we did was take the conditions in the market today…and came up with that $13 number,” Rozier said. “We felt like there was a medium in there.”
Board Member John McMullan also asked why the cost had increased so dramatically in the new contract proposal.
Rozier said there are many factors involved and admitted the original low cost per household from Waste Management’s current contract was a “very good price” all things considered.
“As you can see from our analysis, obviously the prices are higher today than what you are paying,” Rosier said. “The price for delivering these services are higher than the rate you’re paying today. I don’t know how they determine the costs. The price for delivering these services is higher than when you started this contract. It was a very good price when the contract was signed. The market has obviously changed and the costs went up.”
The current contract with Water Management started on Feb. 1, 2012, and is slated to end on Jan. 31, 2020. On Aug. 1, the township notified Waste Management officials they were entering a 30-year period to negotiate the contract renewal. The rate proposed by Waste Management would take effect if the contract was accepted on Feb. 1, 2020.
Bunch said the dramatic increase in the cost made him believe that more information needed to be gathered in order to best consider what is optimal for the community as a whole.
“I want to thank Waste Management for bringing this to us a year ahead of time, this 30 day notice we put out is a year early. They’re trying to help us make a good decision for the community on having enough time on a decision that makes a long-term impact,” Bunch said. “It has to be a no-brainer for us to not go out for an RFP, and when we do the math, it is about a 35 to 40 percent increase. That may be a no-brainer for some, but I couldn’t call it a ‘no-brainer’ at that increase. I need to see the rest of the opportunies that exist out there.”
Board Member Ann Snyder said she believed there is only one option for the township — seek out competing offers via a request for proposals for services.
“With a contract this large, being good stewards of our community, our residents — for a contract this large, we need to go out for an RFP,” Snyder said. “I don’t see how we can do anything but that.”