Waste Pro letter questions bidding process

Published 12:44 am Friday, May 18, 2018

NATCHEZ — Waste Pro Regional Vice President Randy Waterlander sent an email letter late Thursday afternoon addressed to “City of Natchez elected officials and staff.”

The letter questions the city’s recent decision to change waste collection providers, the bidding process for finding a new contractor and says Waste Pro is “disheartened with the myth that our service has been substandard.”

The letter also was carbon copied to reporters at The Natchez Democrat and The Clarion Ledger.

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“Waste Pro has 265 exclusive municipal contracts in nine states,” the letter states. “Since 2001, when we were formed, we have never seen a bid selection process as convoluted as what was conducted by the City.”

The letter questions the process of scoring sheets that “revealed a total lack of adherence to the published process,” and states that Waste Pro was the low bidder. And, “according to the City’s guidelines, should have received maximum points for being low.

“This is not what occurred and is easily verifiable. To ensure a level playing field all questions from bidders are responded to and sent out to all bidders. Again, this was not the case. The ‘winning’ bidder did, in fact, ask written questions, yet the City did not share the answers with all bidders. This is simply not done in any procurement process.”

Ward 3 Alderman Sarah Carter Smith, chair of the city’s utilities committee, said the city’s scoring system for selecting a contractor was about more than selecting the lowest bidder but also was about the quality of services provided.

“We felt like there was just so much (trash) that wasn’t picked up that the number was just reduced,” Smith said, adding that under Waste Pro’s service city officials got complaints regularly from residents about garbage not being collected.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell agreed that the city did not score service bids solely on rates.

“As far as the criteria for those scoring sheets,” Grennell said, “the board did the scoring not just based on rates. They were based on services offered.”

Grennell said as mayor he did not have a voice or a vote in the selection process. Had there been a tie, he would have been able to cast the tie-breaking vote.

Grennell questioned the letter’s claims of having provided consistent service in the following portion: “The facts are our crews,” the Waste Pro letter says, “service 6,000 residents twice a week, which means every month there are approximately 52,000 individual touches. Our rate of missed service is .03 percent (three one-hundredths of one percent).”

Grennell noted his own house’s garbage collection was missed on several occasions.

“My neighbors would come in and ask about what happened to the trash,” Grennell said. “On several occasions my trash was not picked up, and I would get text messages and pictures from people who had not had their trash picked up.”

Smith concurred and said residents also complained about recycling not being collected regularly.

“So many people gave up on the recycling, because it was not picked up consistently,” Smith said. “We were really trying to create a city that is forward thinking for a rural city with recycling.”

The Waste Pro letter said the purpose of its letter was not to “contest the selection.

“If that was the case, this correspondence would be from our attorneys. However, that is not the ‘Waste Pro Way’ yet we cannot simply not defend ourselves, our brand, our employees and the thousands of satisfied public and private customers in Mississippi …

“… Results count, and the result of the entire process designed to seek a ‘better, cheaper waste collection process’ resulted in residents carrying a greater financial burden.”

Smith said the waste collection rates were going to increase anyway.

“The last time we went strictly on price,” Smith said. “We wanted to look at quality, too, this time. The rates were going to go up because they have not been raised in so long and that’s why we considered going to once a week.”

The board decided to continue with the twice a week service in the new contract with Arrow.

Waste Pro Letter