PORTLAND — The future of solid waste collection could be revealed this month when the city opens bids from two private contractors.
Bids on a request for proposals to privatize solid waste collection were scheduled to be opened Tuesday, Jan. 10. On Jan. 18, bids to provide 25,000 wheeled and lidded carts to collect and store recyclable items will be opened.
“We will entertain serious proposals, ones that are efficient or cost-effective,” city Sustainability Coordinator Troy Moon said Jan. 6. “Our city employees do a good job of picking up solid waste. It is looking at what opportunities there might be.”
The city has budgeted $2.6 million for solid waste collection this year, including recyclables. The cost is offset by an anticipated $2.4 million in revenue, including $2.19 million from the sale of garbage bags.
The solid waste budget was reduced almost $200,000 from last year, while the price of garbage bags was increased in the fiscal year 2016 budget to $1.35 for each 15-gallon bag and $2.70 for each 30-gallon bag.
The city has been looking at more efficient ways to collect solid waste and recyclables. Introducing lidded containers for recyclable materials was suggested by a 2011 task force, Moon said.
Improving service and efficiency was also a goal for City Manager Jon Jennings from the time he was hired in July 2015.
At a council workshop in June, Moon and Jennings outlined steps that included the new bins and new trucks, before it was suggested they also see whether privatization is feasible.
Service is now provided each weekday by the city Public Works Department, using six trucks operated by 12 people, Moon said. Two other trucks are used to collect garbage and recyclables from public areas and are operated by one person.
The RFP for collections allows for an array of options at 15,000 buildings that service 24,000 housing units, all on the mainland. Bids can be made on providing the entire service, or on collecting recyclables, items for compost, or just the solid waste that is trucked to ecoMaine, 64 Blueberry Road, and burned for energy.
Any privatized services could start July 3 for what the city anticipates will be a 10-year contract, according to the RFP.
Should the bids for collections not be practical, Moon said the city will invest in the collection fleet as part of next year’s capital improvements budget. Public Works Director Chris Branch has set a placeholder estimate of $500,000 to $600,000 for three trucks. At least one would load at the side and be equipped to lift bins.
The 25,000 bins are estimated to cost $1.25 million and will not be part of the capital budget, which is funded through bonds.
“One of the bigger complaints we get, and it is justified, is the bins are too small and open-lidded; it contributes to litter,” Moon said. He expects grants will pay most, if not all, the cost of buying bins the city will provide for free, and said his cost estimate is on the high end.
The city is looking to buy 23,500 bins in the 62-66 gallon range, and 1,500 in the 92-98 gallon range. All must be equipped to allow mechanical lifts to dump them. Bidders will be required to provide samples as part of the bid process.
City workers collect recyclable materials Jan. 5 on Alder Street. The city is looking for bids on new recyclable carts and possibly privatizing services.