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An FCC Environmental truck in Rowlett, Texas. FCC would use automated trucks on 44% of Omaha routes; West Central would automate 94% of routes.

Both bidders for Omaha’s next trash contract appear to have enough routes, trucks, drivers and workers to pick up garbage on an ideal, 75-degree day, Public Works officials say.

But only one waste hauler included enough cushion in its bids to reliably pick up the trash, with minimal delays, when it’s 100 degrees outside or the streets are covered in snow and ice, officials say.

That’s why Mayor Jean Stothert and City Public Works Director Bob Stubbe say they recommend that the City Council award FCC Environmental a 10-year contract over the city’s low bidder, West Central Sanitation.

Those officials say delayed collections in May and June by the city’s current trash hauler, Waste Management, hammered home the value of ensuring that the city’s next hauler is prepared for unplanned delays.

To them, trash service with less risk of interruption is worth $7 million more a year. FCC bid $22.7 million a year for two 96-gallon trash carts, one for trash and yard waste combined and one for recycling. West Central bid $15.6 million a year for the same job.

“The risk of us failing in Omaha is zero,” Dan Brazil, FCC’s director of collection services, told The World-Herald. “We have zero concerns.”

The Public Works Department has expressed concerns about West Central’s need to secure financing, its ability to nearly double in size to serve Omaha and its lack of experience serving large cities.

FCC officials are in Omaha this month to make the company’s closing arguments to the City Council. Brazil’s pitch: FCC builds more flexibility into its bids than competitors.

FCC says it bids to collect trash from fewer households each day because drivers and cart-grabbing helpers are scheduled to work 9-hour days, instead of 10, leaving an hour of cushion in each person’s schedule. This, FCC says, allows it to handle the unexpected with fewer delays and interruptions.

West Central’s bid has drivers working 10-hour days.

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FCC expects each of its 59 trucks to pick up waste from about 674 households per day, on average, bid documents show. West Central expects each of its 40 trucks to pick up waste from 1,074 households a day.

The city’s two other trash bidders, neither of which is still being considered, expected trucks to collect waste from 707 and 763 households per day.

West Central says it can serve more households with fewer workers because it automates more routes than its competitors. Automated trucks use driver-operated arms to grab and dump trash carts from the curb.

West Central plans to fully automate 94% of the city’s routes.

FCC’s bid would automate about 44% of Omaha’s routes and use semi-automated trucks with a helper grabbing garbage on the rest, documents show.

FCC chose not to automate much of eastern Omaha. The company says it’s quicker to collect garbage in alleys and on streets with curbside parking by grabbing garbage on both sides of the street in a single pass rather than making two passes in an automated truck that can only collect trash from one side of the roadway.

West Central came to Omaha this month to demonstrate its automated trucks in some of Omaha’s toughest neighborhoods to collect garbage.

West Central could collect garbage even faster in Omaha than what’s included in its bids, based on what it’s done in smaller Minnesota communities, owner Don Williamson said. Other companies that have used automated trucks in larger cities have seen similar results, he said.

West Central officials say its bids include 10 extra people and extra equipment to help the company catch up in a pinch.

An independent review of West Central’s bids by HDR Inc. questioned whether West Central could achieve as many efficiencies with automation in Omaha as its bids suggest. But the review also acknowledged that West Central had provided data showing that such efficiencies had been achieved elsewhere. And it said the company had enough backup to carry out its plan in Omaha.

The City Council appears to be split on which bidder to support.

Rich Pahls has pushed his council colleagues to support West Central, and even took a trip to Minnesota to see the company in action in its largest market to date, Mankato, Minnesota.

Councilwoman Aimee Melton has said saving $7 million a year might be worth some risk.

Councilman Vinny Palermo, who supported the FCC bid in June, said residents don’t want to think about what happens after they set their garbage at the curb. They want to put it out in the morning and have it gone when they get home.

The South Omaha Democrat said he might still back FCC’s bid if Stothert’s plan for eight to 12 weeks of additional yard waste pickup proves affordable.

Bids on a supplemental yard waste plan for spring and fall are expected to be opened July 31. That waste would be composted at the city’s OmaGro facility.

A trash contract vote is expected in mid-August.

The city’s current $15 million a year contract with Waste Management runs through the end of 2020.

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