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Digging through the trash for answers in Alamo sanitation pricing

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An addendum increasing commercial pricing for waste disposal was filed by the Town of Alamo Mayor John Avery Emison, just over 60 days after Republic began servicing the town.

During the process of adopting a new vendor, bidders submitted sealed bids opened at the same time and much debate came in to play during the monthly Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting when Republic was allowed to lower their bid package prices to match Volunteer Disposal while Waste Management was denied the option for exceptions on May 6, 2019.

According to Emison at that time, the main features of the request for proposal (RFP), were that it was a four year contract with a three year renewal option, a two year initial base price to create a period of stable pricing, a carefully worded price escalation clause that could kick in after the second year, a carefully worded fuel adjustment clause that could kick in after the first year and a simple form contract.

Dawn Cole, public affairs representative for Waste Management took the opportunity to speak during the meeting and explained to the board that the exceptions denied in their proposal were negotiation points and not a rejection to the contract. They were items that could be discussed with the board should they come up during the time of the contract.

Cole maintained that Emison was unclear of his intentions in his email. Emison said he found issue with all exceptions in Waste Managements proposal.

Emison insisted the board had to make a decision that night and could not postpone the decision to gather more details.

Emison said, “you know this is decision time because the contract ends on June 30 unless we want to form a committee of five to start picking up the trash on July 1, somebody’s going to have to do it.”

The mayor was asked if it could be rebid and instead of responding directly to the question, he stated, “there’s no reason to rebid it. It’s decision time. We can rebid it and we will still have to make a decision.”

With questions of collusion on the table as Volunteer Disposal and Waste Management claimed Republic was given the ability to change their bid while their businesses didn’t receive the same opportunity, town attorney Randy Camp said, “it was my understanding that Republic just sent a letter saying they would do it. I don’t believe we asked them to.”

Emison spoke up to claim; “oh I discussed it with them.  I was trying my best to get the best price for the town of Alamo.”

Emison broke the board tie, contracting Republic as the new waste disposal vendor effective July 1, 2019.

A representative of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury stated on May 7, 2019, “we would certainly say that bids should not be verbally or otherwise amended after they are unsealed and opened publicly.”

The contract was entered into on May 14, 2019.

The RFP of Republic was submitted as part of the contract and stated in section 14.02, “Modification to Rates – The fees which are established by contract shall not be changed during the life of the contract. Negotiated annual adjustments to the contract compensation rates, commencing July 1, 2021, shall not exceed the most currently available Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: U.S. City/town Average, by expenditure category and commodity and service group, Waste and Sewer and Trash Collection Services. Documentation to the satisfaction of the Town of Alamo must be provided before compensation will be made. Price adjustments will be allowed by mutual agreement on the basis of unusual changes in Contractor’s cost of operation based on revised laws.”

In response to questions posed to the Town of Alamo by the bidders, on April 3, 2019 the town stated, “There is an error on page 12, in Section 2.01, it reads: “All collection prices shall be firm for the three year period with a defined method for extending for another two years. The Town of Alamo has the option to accept or reject the additional two year option.”

The correction to the contract stated, “The term of the contract is an initial four years with a three year renewal option which can be exercised by the Town of Alamo.”

Just over 60 days after Republic began their contract with the town, an addendum was signed by Emison allowing Republic to charge $18.50 for commercial pick-up although, the contracted bid agreed upon by the Board of Aldermen was for $13.50.

Residential and commercial customers have not seen an increase in their bills to pose cause for concern from the community.

In a review of the monthly board minutes, the increase of commercial pick-up was not discussed with the board of aldermen during the meetings from July 1, 2019 to present. Additionally, aside from the addendum signed by Emison, no further correspondence from Republic was added to the bid package after the initial price match to Volunteer Disposal.

When asked for all email correspondence regarding the bidding or pricing of residential, commercial and dumpsters as well as addendums that have been sent or received since May 3, 2019, the town responded, “we have diligently searched and there are no e-mails since May 3 that pertain to the bidding process or pricing.”

The representative of the comptrollers’ office was posed with multiple questions regarding a contract on February 7, the process of amendments to a contract that was voted by the board and ORDINANCE 2017-19.

His response stated, “Any changes or additions to a ‘contract’ that ‘originally’ required Board approval pursuant to the City’s Charter, should also be approved by the Board (unless the Mayor was specifically granted authority by the Board to make such decisions). While we can’t offer legal advice, we do not believe ORDINANCE 2017-19 applies to this situation.”

While The Crockett County Times staff continued to search for answers regarding the increase of commercial trash pick-up, staff was instructed to contact the Town Attorney Randy Camp with any further questions.

Camp was emailed by staff on Monday, February 10 saying, “In reviewing changes made to the Republic Waste Vendor contract, why was addendum 1 put into place?

“There are no email correspondences that were given to me between parties and Republic discussing the increase on commercial pick up, when requesting them through public record. In the bid package folder at City Hall, there were no additional communication letters or written correspondence added to the folder explaining why the increase was made in September after the board approved the contract at a lower rate to begin in July.

“Why was this addendum done and where is the communication between parties?

“Residential customers are charged $8.89 by the town and commercial businesses are charged $16.18 by the town, however the town is being charged $10.13 for residential and $18.50 for commercial; if customers aren’t being charged the amount that Republic is charging the city, what fund is the city paying the remainder to satisfy the debt?

“Under what authority did the Mayor approve this change?”

On Tuesday, February 11, an email was made available for pick-up from the town.

The email was between Republic Municipal Sales Manager Chad Brown and Republic Sales Coordinator Lisa Hayes discussing only a dumpster and to send the addendum to the town. The email was then sent from Hayes to the town on August 27, 2019.

The email provided to our office did not discuss why commercial prices were being changed or who initiated the change.

No response has been received from Camp at this time.



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