Waste hauler FCC Environmental of Spain appears to have secured the most support on the Omaha City Council heading into Tuesday’s vote on the city’s next trash contract.
Three members of the council are either planning to vote for the FCC package or have made statements that indicate that they are leaning that way — Vinny Palermo, Ben Gray and Brinker Harding.
A fourth council member, Aimee Melton, has indicated some support for FCC’s bid but said Monday evening that she was still deciding how to vote after hearing from several of her constituents in northwest Omaha. She is also considering the bid from West Central Sanitation of Minnesota.
The council needs four votes on the seven-member council to approve a trash contract.
Mayor Jean Stothert and the Public Works Department have endorsed FCC’s bid, citing the large waste hauler’s ability to secure the financing, land, equipment and personnel to do the job effectively in Omaha.
The FCC plan would provide each Omaha household with two 96-gallon trash carts by late 2020 — one for trash and yard waste together, picked up weekly, and one for recycling, picked up every other week.
It would cost about $24.2 million a year, including an extra eight to 12 weeks of supplemental yard waste pickup, split between the spring and fall. That yard waste would be made into compost at the city’s OmaGro facility. Yard waste collected the rest of the year would be taken to the landfill.
Stothert’s proposal for additional yard waste pickup boosted support for the FCC bid. Harding and Melton have cited the narrowing gap in costs between the two trash companies’ bids as a key reason they’re considering FCC.
West Central has offered two 96-gallon trash carts — without a supplemental yard waste plan — for about $15 million a year. Its package with the extra supplemental yard waste would cost at least $23.5 million a year.
Councilman Rich Pahls remains West Central’s biggest backer on the council. He cited the lower price of its three-cart bid, with separate yard waste collection 35 weeks of the year. That bid came in at $22.2 million.
Pahls may find support for his view from Councilman Pete Festersen, whose central Omaha district is home to many residents who want to keep more yard waste from going to the dump. A three-cart system could do that.
Palermo has long supported the FCC bid, including when it failed to win council support in June. He has said FCC would pick up the city’s trash efficiently and on time, which is what most people care about.
Gray said Monday that he is leaning heavily toward FCC as well. He, like several other members of the council, said he sees a path to four votes for FCC’s two-cart bid with the extra yard waste pickup, and not others.
Council President Chris Jerram has not said which way he’s leaning. He has said he sees risks from picking West Central. But he has also said separate yard waste collection and composting matter to his constituents.
The council is set to vote on the contract during its meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the City-County Building at 1819 Farnam St.
Stothert has said the council must act soon or risk not giving its new trash-hauling company enough time to prepare for an orderly transition from the city’s current hauler, Waste Management.
Waste Management’s $15 million-a-year contract expires at the end of 2020. The company bid on the city’s next trash contract but was eliminated early in the process as the city’s costliest potential contractor.
The city continues to dock the company’s pay for failing to hire enough drivers to separately collect yard waste and compost it. Omaha has also fined Waste Management for delayed pickups, which the company blamed on bad weather.