CUMBERLAND — The Town Council Wednesday voted 5 to 2 to award a multi-year contract to North Smithfield-based Coastal Recycling, Inc. for curbside collection of recyclables, despite protests from the only other company submitting proposals for the contract that the selection process was unfair.
Several months ago, the town sent out requests for proposals, which had asked potential companies to submit proposals that abide by current contract terms between the town and the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, which manages almost all of the state’s municipal and commercial solid waste at the Central Landfill, as well as provide new equipment that will be compatible and efficient for the implementation of single-stream collection next year.
The town received proposals from two companies: Coastal Recycling and Seekonk-based MTG Disposal. Coastal submitted a bid at $8.25 million, which included a six-year contract inclusive of the purchase of new curbside containers at a cost of $550,000.
At the meeting Wednesday, the council voted 5 to 2 to authorize Mayor Daniel J. McKee to enter into a pro-rated six-year contract agreement with Coastal Recycling beginning June 30, 2012.
As part of the agreement with Coastal, the town will pay $999,900 the first year of the pact, $1,400,714 the second year, $1,424,526 the third year, $1,448,750 the fourth year, $1,473,370 the fifth year, and $1,498,420 the sixth year.
Voting in favor of the contract agreement were councilors James T. Higgins, E. Craig Dwyer, Bruce Lemois, Mia A. Ackerman and Manuel N. DaCosta.
Casting the dissenting votes were Councilors Charles D. Wilk and Peter J. Bradley.
MTG submitted a $8.14 million contract proposal that would have seen the town pay $976,500 and $1.49 million in the final year.
Before the vote, the council spent nearly an hour discussing the competitive negotiation process amid claims by MTG Disposal owner Robert Mega that the process used by the town may have violated the state's bidding rules.
But McKee and Town Solicitor Tom Hefner argued against that claim, saying the decision to seek "proposals" rather than sealed bids for the contract was perfectly legal and in the end, Coastal emerged as the vendor who would provide the best value for the town, especially with respect to the town's plans to start the single-stream method of recycling next year.
With single stream, residents can place all recyclables into one bin and will no longer have to separate their recyclables. Proponents of single stream recycling say using just one collection bin for all recyclable items increases the ease and convenience of recycling so that more people participate and more resources are saved.
McKee said DPW Director Alan Brodd solicited proposals in the summer. A total of eight vendors responded, but only two — Coastal and MTG — actually submitted proposals.
"Both were good companies and very even in their pricing," McKee said. "After discussing with both parties our future recycling strategy, we felt that Coastal was the best value for the residents of this community."
In discussing the town's decision to seek proposals rather than sealed bids, Hefner said the town wanted to address all of the issues and left it up to the vendors to craft their own comprehensive proposals.
"Is it the same thing as sealed bids? No," he said. "Is it similar? Yes."
McKee said while the process was difficult because of the focus on single-stream automated recycling, it was fair and above-board.
"We had two good companies and both made their best effort to gain the contract," he said. "We were very careful to ensure that the discussions we were going to have with both vendors were consistent."
"We knew this was going to be a complicated process and that's why we brought the town solicitor in," he added. "In the end, I can tell you that what we have in front of us is a good, solid arrangement for the taxpayers who live in our community. And in the end, that's my job."
Said McKee: "We've done this in a way that I believe was done well. And again, I repeat, we had two good qualified vendors, but you can only select one. At the end of the day, when I take everything into consideration — including all the hours of work and meetings to try and get this right — what you have is the best agreement for the people we serve."