Rim Country residents will finally have a place to recycle plastic, metal and glass under the terms of an intensely debated contract adopted by the Payson Town Council on Thursday.
The council approved a $24,000, 36-month contract with Waste Matters to operate recycling drop-off centers in Green Valley Park and the Sawmill Crossing Shopping Center, as well as provide waste disposal at all town offices and special events.
The contract provoked a long discussion and a split vote, with Councilors Ed Blair and Su Connell pushing to re-open the bidding on the contract.
Waste Matters' $23,000 bid came in far below the $32,000 bid of Waste Management and the $47,000 bid of Roadrunner.
Blair said the numbers in the contending bids didn’t add up, so he wanted the town staff to provide a clear explanation of the differences.
“I continue to think that there are flawed mathematics and it’s not fair,” said Blair.
Connell urged the council to reject the bids and start over with criteria that took into account the community involvement of the bidders and the locations of the new drop-off centers for recycling glass, plastic and metal.
She made that motion after Chamber of Commerce Director John Stanton and community activist Robert Henley both made strong statements of support for Waste Management head Melodi Deaton, who is active with the chamber, Big Brothers Big Sisters and other community groups.
However, the five other council members all voted down that proposal, saying the town should make the decision based on the cost, not on whether the bidder was involved in the community.
“We put out a bid to have the job done,” said Councilor Richard Croy.
“I don’t think we should spend $9,000 more because we like something about the bidder.”
Councilor Fred Carpenter said, “On this one I agree with Rick Croy. But if it comes down to community involvement — (Waste Matters' head) Roy Haught has done all kinds of good things for this community.
Both Town Attorney Tim Wright and Water Department director Buzz Walker said they weren’t sure how to take into account things like community service in evaluating a bid.
Wright pointed out that state law bars the council from giving preference to local businesses just because they’re local. “We can try to figure out how to do that, although it appears like a local preference — which is going to be difficult.”
Walker also said he didn’t know how to do what Connell had suggested in considering community involvement.
He said trying to work that into contracts could cause all kinds of problems when it came time for the town to award millions in contracts to build the Blue Ridge pipeline and upgrade the town’s water system.
“I would need help on that,” he said looking across to Wright.
“I’ve done bids for 31 years and I’ve never done one like that. Once you do it, you need to be able to fly it on down the road and I don’t know how to do it.”
Croy agreed. “We’re asking to make something much more complicated than it needs to be — it just opens the door to difficulties.”
In the end, the council majority followed the recommendations of staff and awarded the contract to provide trash pickup for offices and special events and to set up the two new recycling centers, both at the south end of town.
Payson still won’t get curbside recycling pick-up, since three different private companies provide trash pick-up in town and they would have to haul the separated waste to Phoenix for disposal.
However, the two new recycling centers will offer new alternatives for environmentally conscious residents.
Gila County will continue to pick up and recycle paper waste dropped off at either bins at Walmart or the recycling center in Green Valley Park.
In addition, the Humane Society continues to recycle aluminum cans at the shelter located on South McLane to raise money for abandoned animals.
Moreover, people can still drop off all variety of material for recycling at the Waste Management transfer station on Airport Road.
The two new sites will focus on things like plastic bottles, jugs, steel, tin cans, aerosol cans, milk cartons, drink boxes and other items at the soon-to-be-established recycling center at each end of Main Street.