Why Batavia will pay more for trash pickup than Geneva

Geneva, Batavia and St. Charles need someone to pick up garbage starting July 1.

They issued a "Tri-City Request for Proposals for Solid Waste Services" for contracts to replace the ones expiring June 30 and hoped to save money by not duplicating staff work and through economy of scale, although each town would have its own contract.

Batavia and Geneva recommended going with the company offering the lowest price, saying references from other customers are satisfactory. The second-place company then submitted a revised offer, discounting its previous proposal.

Was that fair? Was it legal?

It depends on which city attorney you ask.

The process

The proposals from Advanced Disposal, Lakeshore Recycling and Groot were opened May 7.

Lakeshore's offer was the lowest in Geneva and Batavia. The offer in St. Charles is not available yet.

Advanced Disposal on May 17 submitted a second, lower offer to both cities. It said it had the right to do so because Lakeshore had been allowed to "enhance" its proposal after it was submitted. Batavia employees had asked Lakeshore Recycling if it was going to offer a $2 half-bag option because Lakeshore left that part of the proposal blank.

In Geneva, Advanced Disposal contends, Lakeshore Recycling's proposal was based on getting at least two towns to sign on, and that it changed after a city official asked about that. A check of Lakeshore's proposal doesn't show any such caveat. (A Geneva alderman did ask if the prices were based on having all three cities sign up.)

Bids vs. proposals

It might come down to whether the offers were bids or proposals.

With bids, a town puts out specifications, receives sealed bids, and determines if they are complete and the bidders are responsible. A bidder could be judged on its references, financial ability to do the job, or its history. All else being equal, towns are supposed to go with the least costly offer.

A "request for proposal" is different, and doesn't require taking the lowest price option.

Batavia's attorney, Kevin Drendel, said "Tri-City Request for Proposals for Solid Waste Services" means it was a request for proposal, and state law exempts solid-waste contracts from bidding.

Monday he said Batavia could go with the higher price contract because it is not spending public funds on pickups; the costs are borne by customers. And, he said, it could consider the revised Advanced Disposal offer.

Alderman Susan Stark, who worked in sales, likened it to a private business getting quotes from two suppliers then letting the current, preferred supplier offer a revised quote to keep the business.

Stark was one of 10 aldermen who picked Advanced Disposal for a five-year contract. Several of them said it has served the city well for 15 years, and residents said they didn't mind paying a higher price to keep the company.

The Batavia Chamber of Commerce lobbied for Advanced Disposal, citing its donations to local festivals and participation in the chamber, and another alderman favored it because the company uses compressed natural gas vehicles in Batavia.

Ron Sandack, one of Geneva's attorneys, told that council it could not consider Advanced Disposal's May 17. All aldermen could decide was if Lakeshore Recycling was a responsible bidder.

"Illinois state statute is pretty clear," he said, that the offers were bids. "Even if we call something a proposal, we opened them as bids. ... Whether the words used were 'proposal' or 'bid' in this instance is a distinction that makes no difference."

If a council doesn't like what was bid, he said, it can reject bids and restart the process.

And so Geneva signed with Lakeshore.

St. Charles considers the same contract Tuesday. Earlier this week it had not received additional communication from Advanced Disposal, Administrator Mark Koenen said.

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