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Brookhaven, Lincoln County garbage bids not tidy and clean

The low bids for city and county garbage pickup contracts were turned in Tuesday by two different companies, and it’s possible a third company could win the final job of operating the city’s transfer station today.

The Lincoln County Board of Supervisors received a low bid for trash collection and disposal from Alabama-based Arrow Disposal Service Inc., at 10 a.m., and the City of Brookhaven received a low bid from current service provider Waste Pro at 2 p.m. Neither the city nor county were wanting to deal with a low bid from Waste Pro, a company they were hoping to show the door after numerous service complaints in recent months, and both governments were hoping to share a single provider to keep expenses down.

Arrow’s bids to the county were $10.67 per household for garbage pickup and $12.92 per household for garbage pickup with trash cans provided. Arrow provided a third option not solicited in the county’s request for proposals for $11.82 per household if cans are distributed but still owned by the company.

Four hours later, Waste Pro’s bids for the city’s garbage job were the lowest — far lower than Arrow’s, which submitted proposals for both contracts. Waste Pro is offering to handle city trash collection for $7.75 per household for once-per-week pickups, $8.47 for twice-per-week pickups and $3.45 per household for recycling services. Waste Pro currently picks up garbage twice weekly in Brookhaven.

The companies’ per-household costs are not the final costs that customers will see, as other fees and expenses are added to garbage bills.

Both the city and county tabled the bids for further consideration. Supervisors said they would vet the proposals until June, and it is unclear how long city aldermen will take to make a decision.

Aldermen will receive another round of bids today — likely from the same four companies that submitted Tuesday — for operation of the trash transfer station. If the same company gets any two of the three contracts, prices can be negotiated down, giving the contract awarding process several moving parts for city and county leaders to consider.

“Tomorrow will tell the tale,” said Brookhaven Mayor Joe Cox.

State law requires governments to accept low bidders most of the time, but exceptions are allowed for the “lowest and best” bids. The section of the bid law dealing with trash collection lays out other options and allows governments to select the “most qualified proposals” on the basis of price, technology and other factors, giving supervisors and aldermen plenty of leeway for choosing their next garbage companies.

If either body decides there are no qualified proposals, they may scrap all the bids and reissue a request for proposals. With the new contracts taking effect at the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 and any new companies requiring time to move into Lincoln County to prepare for operation, it seems unlikely the city or county will start the bidding process over this late in the year.

Other companies submitting on both contracts included Metro Service Group and Waste Management. Metro’s bids were the highest and least-attractive for the city contract, while Waste Management turned in unfavorable prices to the county.

In the meantime, supervisors appear to be backtracking on earlier enthusiasm for the county’s next garbage company to distribute garbage cans after seeing the price differences in the contract’s options.

“The last thing customers want to see is the garbage bill going up, given the complaints we’ve had in the past,” said District 4 Supervisor Eddie Brown. “That’s not going to be good.”

District 5 Supervisor Doug Falvey said awarding the contract option with garbage cans is “very debatable,” while District 1 Supervisor and board president Jerry Wilson wants to hear from more citizens before making the call.

“Whatever the bosses want, we’ll cater to them,” Wilson said.