(Sampson Independent, The (Clinton, NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 28--The county is in the process of addressing mounting electronic recycling items at two of its convenience sites, the result of an unfulfilled no-cost contract entered into last year in order to meet state mandates, county officials said.
Assistant county manager Susan Holder said last week that eCycleSecure had cut ties with the county. Last year, the county entered into a contract with the company to pick up, transport and dispose of electronic recycling materials as required by the state.
As of July 1, 2011, electronic waste, including computers, televisions, monitors, laptops, fax machines and other electronic items, was banned from landfills across the state. Spivey's Corner and Ingold were the two convenience sites among a dozen across the county designated as e-cycle sites for their northern and southern locations.
Last month, Holder said the electronics were piling up at the two sites.
"The company we entered into a contract with for that is really not providing the service they promised to provide," said Holder. "We want to terminate that existing contract. They are not doing what they said they would do and it's causing our convenience sites to get backed up with this electronics waste. We can't get people in and out of our convenience sites. We'll call for pick-up and they won't show up when they say they're going to. Or they'll show up in a different vehicle that is not capable of picking up all the electronic waste. They're not living up to the terms of their agreement."
There is a provision in the contract where the customer can terminate agreement for unsatisfactory performance. Holder and county manager Ed Causey said they previously met with e-Cycle representatives and shared their concerns and dissatisfaction. Holder found that the disposed electronics market is growing saturated, and many companies simply want those components that are money-making.
"That leaves the county holding the bag for the other stuff," she remarked. "That leaves us with no way of disposing of the other stuff without paying somebody to do it. The only way we're able to get a company to pick up the other stuff for free is if they get all of it."
Holder said the infrequent trips to pick up the items has been compounded by the vast amount of items the county has received and the manpower it takes to handle them before they are picked up. Employees with Waste Industries, which operates the county's convenience sites, have placed bigger equipment on pallets and prepped it by shrink wrapping the bulk items for pick-up.
"We've not been very satisfied with the company because they're not fulfilling their end of the bargain as to pick-ups. It has not hurt the county, it has hurt (Waste Industries)," she noted. "They've obligated their personnel to resolve the problems that we've had with our e-waste contractor. They send equipment and personnel ... they've taken extra efforts to make sure the flow of traffic and people is not compromised by what the other company is not doing."
With eCycleSecure dropping the county contract, Holder said it was necessary to enter into a month-to-month contract -- most importantly, it would have to be with an e-steward.
Metech was one company mentioned. The company is an e-steward, meaning that they are certified in the proper handling of electronic waste and provide reports within proper standards to the state. Specifically, e-stewards attest to not exporting unprocessed materials, incinerating or disposing of toxic materials into landfills or using prison labor during the recycling process.
Contracting with an e-steward is the only way the county can qualify for minimal state grants to offset costs associated with advertising for e-waste, signage and costs of reporting.
"They have to be a certified e-steward," said Holder. "If they're not an e-steward, we don't get money from the state. As long as we get that certificate of disposal, that's our obligation to the state."
Before going with Metech, Holder said the county can do an RFP (request for proposal) and accept written proposals for the contract. She said it was imperative the county enter into a month-to-month agreement quickly.
"None of us expected the volume of waste we've gotten. None of us," Holder said. "We never realized there were so many televisions and computers in attics and basements in Sampson County. The problem is that it is keeping our citizens from being able to safely dispose of their residential waste, because that e-waste is mounting and it is in the way. The bottom line is we've got to find someone else to do this, because it is interfering with your other solid waste needs."
Solid waste contract
On another waste-related topic, the Board of Commissioners is expected to consider its options before entering into an extension with Waste Industries for its solid waste contract.
The current contract with Waste Industries to collect and dispose of solid waste collection and recyclables runs out Nov. 30, 2012. County staff recently contacted WI representatives to inquire as to whether additional benefits could be had by the county if the deal was simply extended and not bid out.
"Knowing that the contract was coming up for renewal in 2012 and knowing that your edict to us has been 'let's reduce our costs,' we went to them and started a dialogue," said Holder. "We obviously think there's some benefit to not putting out to bid, because of what we're able to get financially from them. We asked them to have this dialogue with us."
Finance officer David Clack said the county is not required to bid out a service, only in cases there is equipment and major repairs above $90,000 or building construction exceeding $300,000. Many times, the county chooses to use the bid process to give several local companies who offer a similar service equal opportunity.
Clack noted that $711,000 was currently spent annually on solid waste collection, a per capita cost of $10.43
In response to the county's request, Waste Industries recently presented the county with a confidential and unsolicited proposal to continue to operate the convenience sites within the county for an additional five years, with proposed cost savings.
"Right now this is less than our current contract," said Clack of the confidential proposal.
Commissioner Albert Kirby said he felt the county should weigh its options, especially under a tight budget.
"I think it would be irresponsible in these economic times not to have somebody take a swipe at this," said Kirby. "We're talking about tax money. This is a tough economic situation. If we were in a prosperous time, I don't think I'd care that much about it."
The board is currently considering the matter and whether the county should bid out the process or negotiate further, while county staff looks at drafting an RFP.
In a message to the county detailing the proposed five-year extension, Waste Industries general manager Travis Hitchcock noted the "integral part" the company plays in the community.
"From our convenience site attendants to our solid waste and recycling collection truck operators, and to our team that operates the Sampson County Landfill, Waste Industries employs 52 individuals in Sampson County with an annualized payroll over $1.5 million," Hitchcock stated. "Our team strives to provide the citizens of Sampson County with the absolute best service."
Causey said there were two sides of the equation when considering the contract, and accepting other bids for it.
"From the staff standpoint, we feel like we've got a competitive contract and a good relationship and it's always nice to have that vendor you work well with," said Causey. "At the same time, with government, there is the public perception of what we're doing and here is an opportunity if you put out the RFP to confirm how good your price is. The down side of that, there is some risk that if they felt for whatever reason they needed to change their pricing. That's the risk you take. At the end of the day, you have the verification that you've gone out and given everyone the opportunity."
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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