County contract bids pits David vs. Goliath
Monday's showdown over the county's Verde Valley recycling contract had all the makings of a modern-day David and Goliath story.
For the last 10 years, Sedona Recycles, a non-profit with a $700,000 a year budget, has provided recycling services to the county's unincorporated communities of Cornville, Beaver Creek, Big Park and Verde Village.
It is a service they built from scratch using a minimal staff of paid employees and many dedicated volunteers. The founders feel the service is theirs to provide by birthright.
But this year the bid specifications were changed, and a Goliath threw in a bid that left the board of directors of Sedona Recycles in a state of shock and awe.
Waste Management Inc., a $13 billion a year company, submitted a bid of $750 a month to provide the services that Sedona Recycles bid $5,530 a month to provide.
Adding to their shock and awe was the fact that Sedona Recycles had recently invested $275,000 to become more efficient, at the county's request, and had presented a bid that was 22 percent lower than their bid from two years ago.
Feeling the disparity between their two bids could only indicate one of two things -- predatory pricing or a gross misunderstanding of what the bid entailed -- a squad of Sedona Recycles directors and employees showed up at a Yavapai County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday to fend off the giant.
After going over a list of accomplishments and noting that the Sedona Recycles program serves as a rural recycling model for the rest of the state, Executive Director Jill McCutcheon pointed out that Waste Management's bid was inadequate based on the amount of material currently being recycled.
"According to their bid, Waste Management will be able to provide an average of only 30 percent of the necessary services. The question is, what happens to the rest of the material that is generated," McCutcheon said.
Waste Management representatives acknowledged that their bid called for picking up only two eight-yard containers twice a week at the five collection sites. Sedona Recycles estimates they haul off more than 300 container loads a month.
In addition to the argument of whether Waste Management's bid would be adequate, there was a question of where Waste Management planned to set up recycle bins if it received the bid.
McCutcheon said all but one of the Sedona Recycles drop-off centers were on private property and that they were there because they had worked out agreements with the owners.
Waste Management representative Jim Kelly admitted the company was under the impression that if they received the bid they would also assume Sedona Recycles' drop-off locations.
Sedona Recycles employee Meghan McCutcheon made it clear they had no intention of closing their recycling sites, even if they lost the county's contract.
"Sedona Recycles has supported this program through blood, sweat and tears," Meghan McCutcheon said. "We have obtained the sites, supplied the equipment, advertised the program, educated the public, and worked to make the program the success it is today.
"If the county feels it can no longer support Sedona Recycles by awarding us this contract, know that we will not remove our sites. Instead we would ask that Yavapai County discontinue its support of the program altogether."
In the end, the board of supervisors voted unanimously to reject all bids, clarify the contract, get an accurate estimate of recyclables processed each month, have Waste Management identify its recycling sites and to rebid the contract.