Omaha City Council rejects trash contract; mayor to meet with council to find a way forward (copy)

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert testifies to the City Council in June about the city's trash contract. 

The writer is the mayor of Omaha.

In the next month, the Omaha City Council must choose a company to pick up your trash.

The council’s decision will impact every Omaha taxpayer for the next 10 to 20 years.

That’s why we took three years to study, survey, test automated technology, review comparable cities, offer public meetings and listen to feedback from our citizens.

Based on that history, and an analysis of the bids we received, it is my opinion and the opinion of our public works director, environmental engineers and finance team that the solid waste collection contract should be awarded to FCC Environmental.

FCC Environmental bid $22.7 million annually for a two-cart collection system, West Central Sanitation bid $15.6 million.

A two-cart system provides weekly collection of garbage and yard waste together, plus a second cart for bi-weekly recycling. Our study and survey data shows the two-cart system meets the needs of the majority of households. Those who need or want three carts have options for the third, including a free cart for families with five or more persons.

The choice between FCC and West Central Sanitation is more than just the cost of service; it’s about job performance and financial risk.

It is my responsibility to protect the city from risk. I believe there will be risk if the City Council chooses West Central Sanitation.

When solid waste is not collected in a safe and timely way, public health and public safety are impacted.

Our objective must always be to collect your trash, yard waste and recyclables on the day of scheduled collection.

Some members of the City Council prefer West Central Sanitation, and the Omaha World-Herald recently supported West Central in an editorial concluding, “the company’s impressive demonstration of its automated technology gives the council one more reason to say ‘yes’ to approving its bid.”

Our request for bids for the solid waste collection contract required an automated collection system from all bidders.

FCC and West Central both use automated trucks. The difference is the type of automation to be used in neighborhoods in east Omaha, in alleys and on narrow streets where cars are often parked on both sides of the street, limiting access to garbage carts on the curb.

West Central Sanitation will use an automated truck with one employee in those situations. FCC will use a semi-automated truck with two employees.

West Central claims its system will be faster, by seconds, and therefore less expensive.

On a perfect day, it might be faster. However, we don’t get many perfect days in Omaha. We have many unpredictable conditions that affect collections.

Omaha’s trash contract requires pickup at more than 140,000 homes every week.

West Central’s bid documents show their largest contract serves approximately 20,000 customers weekly, which is the size of one of Omaha’s City Council districts.

FCC has a successful history of providing service to cities of similar size to Omaha.

FCC plans to use 59 trucks to collect approximately 300,000 carts weekly with the two-cart system.

By comparison, West Central proposes to use 61 trucks to collect 450,000 carts with the three-cart system.

That’s just two more trucks, with fewer employees to collect 150,000 additional carts. Can it be done every week?

Consider the delays we have experienced with our current contractor, Waste Management.

If one of the largest companies in the country can’t provide the services required by our current contract, why would we take a risk with a much smaller company?

FCC’s expansion to Omaha will bring additional jobs to Omaha, with 130 Omaha employees, a local call center operated by Omaha residents and a local division — FCC Environmental Nebraska — headquartered in Omaha to serve future Midwest customers, with the potential for additional jobs.

We must have a successful transition to a new service on or before Jan. 1, 2021, and every day after for up to 20 years.

There’s no second chance if we don’t make the best choice now.

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