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updated: 1/6/2014 11:59 PM

Des Plaines to start talks on new waste hauler contract

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Des Plaines officials will negotiate a new contract with the city's current waste hauler, just months before that firm's long-term deal is due to expire.

Trash collection is one of the largest contracts the city of Des Plaines handles, and for the last seven years, Mount Prospect-based Republic Services has had the responsibility of picking up trash for an estimated 15,500 residential customers in Des Plaines.

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The city council voted 6-2 Monday to authorize negotiations to begin with Republic Services after city staff members narrowed down a list of favored garbage collectors, from six who responded to a request for proposals, to three, and finally, one.

One alderman, Mark Walsten, has cried foul over how the entire process was conducted and suggested the six proposals received by the city in November be thrown out and the process redone.

"This entire process has been far from smooth and wasn't focused on the best deal for our city," said Walsten, who is alderman of Des Plaines' 6th Ward. "I think we failed to see what was best for the residents of our city."

Fifth Ward Alderman Jim Brookman voted with Walsten against the motion authorizing negotiations to begin, saying that he wanted to delay the vote two weeks in order to examine additional information provided during Monday night's meeting by other waste haulers, including Groot Industries and Flood Brothers.

Walsten has expressed frustration that city staff members narrowed its list of six original firms to three, and only those three were allowed to make presentations to the council on Dec. 2. Staff members designated those firms -- Republic, Groot and Lakeshore Recycling -- as the "most favorable bidders," after those three submitted the least costly bids.

Flood Brothers, Walsten argued, offered some "profound" things in its package, such as a 35 percent discount for seniors and free garbage pickup for religious institutions, that city staff members didn't consider.

But 7th Ward Alderman Joanna Sojka, chairwoman of the public works committee, said Flood Brothers didn't include that information in its original proposal -- and that's why it wasn't asked to come back to make a formal presentation to the city.

She also said an analysis done by Public Works and Engineering Director Tim Oakley found that despite Flood's senior discount, seniors would be paying the same as if they were paying any of the three other favored firms, when the base cost is factored in.

Company owner Brian Flood told aldermen that he thought he would be called back and didn't provide all the information up front as part of a negotiation and "feeling out process."

"If you wanted us to feel you out or you feel us out, then why didn't you include the parts of your proposal that would have been the strongest?" Sojka said.

"I thought we were going to be invited in to talk," Flood said.

Republic Services is offering the city a rate of $16.30 per customer per month, a savings over the current $21.89 rate. City officials say that would result in an annual savings of $1 million for single-family and multifamily-unit residential customers.

Should the city be able to finalize terms with Republic, the council could vote on a new contract as early as Jan. 21. If negotiations fall through, officials have indicated they will reconsider talking with the other two favored vendors.

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