Earlier this month garbage collection company, CleanScapes lost a proposed contract to Republic Services, Bellevue’s current garbage hauler. Now the company, which was the lower of the two bidders, is asking the city to reconsider.
“Ultimately, there was a process that was laid out and that CleanScapes followed and scored highest on, but that was disregarded,” said Kevin Kelly, a spokesperson for the company.
A letter submitted by CleanScapes’ attorney James Greenfield, to city attorney Lori Riordan called the decision “arbitrary” and “contrary to law.” CleanScapes claims that they not only scored better than their competitor, but offer cheaper service. Republic Services’ price tag for the seven years of service came to $19.8 million, compared to CleanScapes’ $17.9 million. Two councilmembers recused themselves from a vote–Kevin Wallace and John Chelminiak because of past business relationships with individuals from Republic Services. The five who did vote—Claudia Balducci, Mayor Conrad Lee, Don Davidson and Jennifer Robertson—did so unanimously.
“When I read through the contract to find that staff recommended CleanScapes be awarded the contract,” said Bellevue resident and former business owner Eleanor Schroeder, addressing city council on Sept. 16, “CleanScapes in every way scored higher and in addition was less expensive for us, the taxpayer. However, for some strange reason, and I don’t understand, you all made the unanimous decision to award it to Republic Services.”
Republic Services has contracted with the city for more than 30 years and several councilmembers said during discussion that having to transition to another company was part of their reason for sticking with the present arrangement. The current contract expires next June.
Council’s vote maintains the current rate structure under Republic Services, adding a number of service enhancements like organics collection, on-call curbside collection of small electronics and online account management. The contract will be finalized and again brought before council this month for approval.
“We have heard from people who are unhappy with the decision and don’t know why it was made the way it was,” says Kelly. “For some people those monthly savings are important, for both residents and businesses. I think there’s a confusion about why the Bellevue City Council chose to pass on an opportunity that provided a lower cost and higher quality service.”
Kelly says that in a scoring of either company, out of 100 CleanScapes tallied 98.5, compared to Republic Services’ 88.3. Eighty percent of the scoring criteria was based on price and the final twenty on customer service, contract implementation and sustainability, among other points.
Kelly also notes that some of the criteria either company was evaluated on, like community involvement, “are hard things to beat if you’re not in the city already.”
CleanScapes currently serves about half of the city of Seattle, Issaquah, Shoreline and Des Moines, among other locations and when asked about transitioning services, said that the company was well-equipped, having undergone five transitions in the last six years, including the city of Seattle, one of the largest efforts in the region. In his letter addressed to the city, Greenfield also questions the lobbying of several Republic Services representatives who approached councilmembers with emails and phone calls. Bidders and associated agents aren’t supposed to have contact before a contract vote.
Emily Christensen, director of communication for the city said that staff were currently working out a time to meet with Greenfield. Any resulting solid waste contract won’t be finalized until later this month.