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U-46 Board rejects first waste, refuse service bid

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 will vote on a five-year contract proposal for waste and refuse services with either Groot Industries Incorporated or Advanced Disposal Services at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 6.
  The administration had presented and asked for a vote in just one meeting for a proposal with Groot, but it failed by a 4-3 vote on Monday, July 23. Board members Phil Costello, Sue Kerr, Veronica Noland and Melissa Owens all voted against the proposal while John Devereux, Donna Smith and Jeanette Ward all voted for the proposal.
  At question was the references and experience as Advanced came in at a cost of $233,645 annually ($1.2 million over five years) which was $11,559 a year lower than Groot which came in at $245,203 ($1.2 million total). Whichever service provider is chosen the cost will be paid for from the operations and maintenance fund.
  Price received 30 percent of the weight in the district’s scoring and references and experience 25 percent, the highest of seven total metrics. Four administrators in plant operations scored the bids.
  Waste Management, which is U-46’s current provider, also submitted a bid at $268,878 annually, and beyond the higher cost the district says that it has received poor service from the provider.
  Bruce Phelps, senior business official, said in response to a question from Costello: “Price is a concern to us. We don’t want to pay more than we have to, but what we’ve got to take into account is the service piece because we currently have service issues with the current provider that’s providing us the service.”
  Marcus LaPointe, coordinator of secondary schools operations and support, said that issues with Waste Management billing and pick-up problems were among others.
  During public comments, a representative of Advanced spoke and said they were “unfairly and negatively affected” for having more references than the other bidders. Four of five references sent by Advanced responded to U-46’s questions and Advanced was assessed 8 percent of the 25 percent available, three of five references from Groot responded leading to a 24 percent assessment and two of three from Waste Management responded leading to a 20 percent assessment.
  However, references from Advanced weren’t all stellar as the proposal stated those references made comments with issues with miscommunication, customer service and “horrendous” accounting in billing.
  Noland said there was too much subjectivity in the references and experience metrics and said Advanced was negatively affected for having more references respond to the district. She suggested that U-46 weight the average score from the references.
  “I’m not sure what method you used to assign points based on the responses to those reference checks…. The way I read it, if I came up with a scoring method where you weight the grade based on the number of respondents to make it equal, it doesn’t come out right,” Noland said and added: “Mathematically you’re not adjusting for the variable in number of references that you’re using in the calculation.”
  In response later to a question from Kerr, LaPointe said “we asked the same questions to every reference.” In response to Noland’s concerns, Phelps said: “Regardless of whether we got three or four, it wouldn’t change some of the comments. These are references that that vendor supplied to us.”
  “I looked at them and there was one that was unfavorable for Advanced, and that’s where your quotes came from,” said Noland, but “we have a vendor who has come to us to say ‘hey, we’re being unfairly weighted because we provided more references than the other two groups,’ and that’s what I see.”
  Owens agreed with Noland and said in her calculation Groot would still edge Advanced but “in my mind, that is not significant enough to overlook the price difference on this contract.”
  “We’ve had five years of bad service. Having four answers of bad service, four references that kind of don’t give stellar service, do we want five more years of that?” LaPoint rhetorically asked. He added: “We wanted to go with the best references available and the best services that other people have had.”
  Costello noted that the choice would ultimately be between Groot and Advanced but suggested there was an issue with the references and experience scoring because Waste Management “got a score that’s 250 [percent] higher than Advanced Disposal” despite the district saying it’s had “terrible results” with Waste Management.
  “I would think that a negative response should be of more concern, or carry more weight than a positive response,” Devereux said of the references from Advanced. “It’s sort of a risk-benefit issue.”
  Devereux added: “If I’m providing a reference, then I’m going to do my homework to make sure I’m providing a stellar reference…. If one or more came back negative, then I think it’s a subjective cause for concern.”
  Ward agreed saying: “The references were provided by the company that’s in question that showed up tonight, and if the references that you provided can’t say good things about you that does not bode well.”
  Ward did ask why the proposal was being presented and voted on at the same meeting. Phelps said they wanted to bring it forward with more time for board review, but “it took us far longer than we anticipated just to gather the data.”
  Owens said: “I’m sorry, but this wasn’t a surprise that this was coming up…. The fact that we’re under the gun at this point isn’t the problem of the board.”
  The defeat of the proposal does raise issues as Waste Management is already removing dumpsters.
  Ward said she has concerns with garbage becoming an issue with no service in the short-term to which U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said “we’ll have to debrief and figure out something before school starts.” Jeff King, chief operating officer, said: “Two-three weeks prior to school and two weeks after school starts is when we generate the most garbage.”
  Noland said she heard a rumor that the district had already told Groot to start moving dumpsters into the district before the vote was taken which the administration admitted to. King said: “Because of the amount of time, I mean we have to switch out over 60 sites, we can’t do that in one day. So we gave them a letter of intent to move forward to switch dumpsters because otherwise we’re going to be without service.”
  King later said the administration would recalculate and present for a vote on Aug. 6 by taking only three references from both Advanced and Groot. He said Groot has already installed 10 dumpsters, and if the district ends up going with Advanced it would have to pay something to Groot. Costello said he would want that cost provided before the Aug. 6 vote.





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