Killeen is preparing to launch a mandatory citywide recycling program — a major initiative that will help the environment while generating revenue for the city.
But considering the magnitude of the endeavor, the city seems to be taking a less-than-thorough approach to choosing a contractor to process the recyclable materials.
The city first sent out a request for proposals on Sept. 1, seeking responses from companies capable of processing and marketing the city’s recyclable materials.
Four proposals were submitted — three of them from out-of-town companies and one from a Killeen-based business.
A seven-member committee then evaluated the proposals and ranked them using several weighted criteria, including experience and quality; fiscal impact, location; and public education. The four proposals were then given scores and ranked accordingly.
On Jan. 14, the committee — headed by the city’s solid waste director, Michael Cleghorn — briefed the council on its recommendation to hire Austin-based Balcones Resources. The problem is, the council only saw the information pertaining to Balcones. None of the proposals from the other three companies were made available in the briefing.
On Tuesday, the council did get a briefing in which the four proposals were presented side-by-side. But following the presentation, a representative of Killeen-based Centex Metals complained that he’d never seen some of the figures attributed to his company’s proposal.
In the end, council members wisely decided to defer their decision on choosing a contractor until Feb. 4 — after they’d had a chance to study the numbers.
It’s a good thing, because some of the numbers definitely merit scrutiny.
For one thing, the disparity between the per-ton price paid to the city for recyclable materials is huge. Centex, ranked third by the committee, is offering to pay the city $60 per ton, compared to Balcones’ proposed $5 offer. Second-place WILCO offered $10 and Texas Disposal Services offered $1.99 to $4.99.
The proposed revenue from Centex for processing an estimated 7,200 tons of materials annually would be $805,000 — which includes a monthly $1,125 lease payment for the city’s transfer station. By contrast, the estimated annual revenue from top-rated Balcones would be $122,400.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Dan Corbin asked a Balcones representative whether Centex could realistically pay the city $60 a ton. It may have been a legitimate question, but it should have been directed at the Centex representative present, not his competitor. With Balcones offering $5 a ton, Corbin likely knew the answer he was going to get before he asked the question.
With so much money potentially on the table, committee members owed it to the council — and the taxpayers — to interview Centex management at length before making a recommendation, something that did not happen.
As council members move forward with the process, it would be in their best interest to examine not just the committee’s scores, but also the potential long-term financial impact of their selection of a contractor. While several factors must be taken into account, hiring a local company — with its potential to create local jobs — should be a prime consideration.
Secondly, with a rate study scheduled before the recycling program is initiated, the council should carefully examine the citywide initiative’s cost to residents.
Temple and Belton each started recycling programs this month, and the impact on residents is minimal. In fact, Belton’s monthly rate will drop 72 cents. Temple’s rate increased by just 40 cents.
By contrast Killeen’s rate could rise almost $6 for a resident who is currently using the city’s smallest-size trash can and not participating in the current voluntary recycling program.
Where’s the incentive to recycle when that kind of rate increase is involved?
Mandatory citywide, single-stream recycling is a major initiative that will benefit Killeen and affect all of its residents.
It’s important for the city to take things slow and get it right the first time.