As the city of Killeen continues its effort to move forward with a citywide recycling initiative, two councilmen said they feel city officials are trying to railroad the program through.
Councilman Jonathan Okray said he feels like the council is “being forced” by the city to go with its recommendation of awarding the contract to Balcones Resources, one of four companies that responded to the city’s Sept. 1 request for proposals.
“I almost feel like we are being forced to make this thing mandatory and to implement this haphazardly,” he said of a single-stream recycling program, which could increase monthly utility costs for residents. “We need to be more responsible with the people’s money. We’re not even looking, as a council, at the (request for proposals). (City staff) is just saying this is the best thing for us to do.”
Councilman Steve Harris agrees after two weeks of council workshop meetings to discuss the proposals and program implementation. A vote has yet to be taken by the council.
“In looking at how the whole thing was brought before us initially, as far as one company being mentioned, and then the other companies coming back, ... I think it’s being pushed along,” he said. “Decisions are trying to be obtained when obviously we (the council) are all not quite sure about what’s going on.”
Public Works Director Scott Osburn said the request for proposals process “is focused on selecting the entity that provides the best overall value for the city based on the weighted average ranking of key factors,” he said.
The city received proposals from Austin-based Balcones Resources, which was ranked No. 1 by a committee of seven city staffers; WILCO Recycling, located just outside Austin, came in at No. 2; Killeen-based Centex Metals was No. 3 and Austin-based Texas Disposal Systems was No. 4.
The committee — Michael Cleghorn, solid waste director; Richard Davis, residential operations specialist; Peter DiLillo, recycling manager; Terry Hardcastle, transfer station superintendent; John Nett, city engineer; Pamela Pringle, accounting supervisor; and Eddie Wallace, commercial operations superintendent — evaluated the proposals and scored them on a weighted scale. Experience and quality was weighted at 15 percent of the total score, fiscal impact at 20 percent, location at 20 percent, and long-term facility and public education were each weighted at 10 percent. Plan and timeline, financial capability, quality of reports, completeness and response to the city’s proposal were weighted at 5 percent each.
Cleghorn presented the council with the city’s recommendation to go with Balcones in a Jan. 14 special workshop meeting. The council was given all four proposals in a Tuesday workshop meeting following a request for more information.
Executing a single-stream program will likely increase fees for residents. The city is proposing a switch from its “pay-as-you-throw” system where residents pay fees depending on the size of their garbage can to a flat, citywide fee.
The increase is pending a rate study the city plans to conduct for about $130,000 following the council’s endorsement of one of the contractors.
Residents who currently use the city’s voluntary curb-sorted recycling program pay $2.48 a month for a 22-gallon recycling container. Residents with a 96-gallon garbage can pay $17.50 per month. The cost of a 64-gallon can is $15.60 per month and 32-gallon cans cost $14.38 per month.
Under the proposed system, all residents will get a 96-gallon recycling cart and a 96-gallon garbage can for a monthly base fee of $20.89.
Okray adamantly opposes the initiative being mandated.
“I do not support the idea of imbedding rates for recycling into people’s (utility) bills,” he said. “They (the city) want to put the liability on the citizens of Killeen. ... If it’s going to be mandatory, then the city should pay for it.”
Okray said he also believes the city is going about its process to execute the program backward.
“They’re trying to rush it. ... We don’t even have a rate analysis,” he said. “The rate analysis is what we need so we can determine how much this will even cost the rate-payer. We’re talking about getting the contract before we do a rate study; that, to me, seems backward. It’s ludicrous.”
Okray said he feels the city is being “irresponsible” with the taxpayers’ money.
Harris echoed Okray’s concerns that implementing a mandatory program is “not a good idea.”
“The key thing is trying to educate the people and trying to motivate them to recycle,” he said. “I think if the public is educated and motivated then they will do it. Just because it’s made mandatory doesn’t mean that everyone is going to do it. I don’t think it’s a good idea, and it especially isn’t to charge (residents) for it at the same time.”
Harris said he recommends residents contact their council members with their concerns about the recycling program.
Attempts to contact Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Blackstone and Councilmen Jared Foster, Wayne Gilmore, Jose Segarra and Terry Clark for comment were unsuccessful.