BOONE — After discussing the matter in open and closed session on May 21, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners decided to award a solid waste disposal service contract to two companies operating out of Blountville, Tenn.
As of July 1, Watauga County will end its contract with Republic Services — a partnership that started in 2009. According to Sanitation Operations Services Director Rex Buck, the county first entered into a five-year contract with Republic in 2009 with a subsequent five-year renewal period. The county entered into a 90-day contract extension period starting March 31 to attempt to negotiate a new rate for transportation and disposal with Republic.
County Manager Deron Geouque said the county will now contract with Eco-Safe Systems LLC for disposal services and Custom Ecology Incorporated for transportation. Eco-Safe Systems is based out of Ponte Verde, Fla. and Custom Ecology Incorporated is based out of Mableton, Ga., according to Geouque. Locally, both companies operate out of a landfill location in Blountville, Tenn. Representatives from both Eco-Safe Systems and Custom Ecology Incorporated attended the May 21 meeting.
The county plans to enter into a five-year contract with Eco-Safe Systems and a three-year contract with Custom Ecology Incorporated. Geouque said the decision for the service switch was based on transportation pricing — CEI was offering $42 a ton while Republic was offering $44.51 a ton in transportation costs.
Currently the county contracts with Republic for transportation and disposal at $42 a ton. The new agreements will be set at $18.69 for disposal with Eco-Safe Systems and $21.31 for transportation with CEI, plus a $2 a ton North Carolina solid waste tax.
Buck said the transportation to the Tennessee location would be about twice as far from where the county waste currently travels, and said this will neither be an advantage nor a disadvantage to the county as the cost would remain the same.
Buck also clarified that the solid waste fee increases recently implemented by the county would remain the same and would not be affected by the contract change. He said the tipping fees are not affected because it’s based on the same cost structure prior to the new companies. This means the increases set forth on May 1 will stand.
The three-year contract with CEI gives the county the opportunity to examine if it would be beneficial to self-haul to a contracted landfill rather than use a private provider, Geouque said.
“It’s something we have to look at and measure to figure out whether the savings justify the additional liability the county would take on by actually hauling it from the transfer station to (a) landfill,” Geouque said.
The commissioners heard from Tony Krasienko, the municipal services manager for Republic, at the May 21 meeting. Materials provided by Krasienk stated that Republic was deeply concerned that the county was considering other solid waste disposal options without a complete analysis of the impact to the county’s overall solid waste budget.
He said that at face value Republic appeared to be a higher cost, but the county had not factored in the revenue the business brings to the county.
Krasienko told commissioners that Republic contributed $1.3 million toward revenue with the solid waste it brings to the county transfer station from its various customers. He said the county receives $319,000 in net revenue when comparing expenses to revenue.
Buck said he and Geouque met with Krasienko and other Republic representatives on May 15 and again on May 21 to discuss various rates. The rate was proposed at the $44.51 a ton amount at the May 15 meeting. However, Buck said Krasienko presented a lower rate at the May 21 meeting.
Commissioners Billy Kennedy and Larry Turnbow each shared concern and “frustration” about the contract with Republic. Kennedy said the county had been trying to negotiate rates for months with the company. Buck said he started the conversation about negotiating pricing in May of last year.
“You all have consistently waited until the last minute to give us your best price,” Kennedy said.
At the May 21 meeting, Krasienko mentioned the revenue loss the county would see if the company decided to haul waste elsewhere rather than the county transfer station. As of May 30, he said the company had not made a decision on if it would continue to take waste to the county site or directly to a landfill, and that such a decision could be made on a day-by-day basis.
“We are disappointed in the county commission’s recent decision to award its solid waste disposal contract to a different provider,” Republic Services stated. “We believe our proposal not only satisfied more of the contractual requirements, but also represented a better value for the county’s residents and businesses. We have been honored to serve this community over the past decade, and we look forward to continuing to provide collection services to customers across Watauga County.”