Saturday, May 31, 2014

Trash Collection, Landfill Contract Complications

The City of San Angelo's Trash Collection and Landfill Operation Request for Proposal specified the following Activity Schedule, which seemed tight if the city seriously wanted to consider anyone but the current provider, Trashaway-Republic:
February 11 -- RFP OP-01-14 Available
February 25 -- Pre-Proposal Conference
March 5 -- Deadline for Questions on RFP
March 14 -- Proposals Due to City
March 17-20 -- Review Questions/Clarifications to Proposers
March 27-28 -- Proposer Interviews (this did not occur)
April 15 -- Council Authorization to Negotiate (came early on April 1)
April 16-29 -- Negotiations
May 6 -- Council Agenda Item (this has not occurred and is not on        June 3 City Council Agenda)
August 1 -- Lessee/Operator Commences Services

City staff skipped proposer interviews and City Council approved negotiating with Trashaway-Republic two weeks early on April 1.  Revelations of Trashaway-Republic's unauthorized billing of certain fees to commercial customers came around April 15.  Since then everything's been quiet.

The bid criteria state:

The prospective primary participant certifies to the best of its knowledge and belief that it and its principals:
(a) Are not presently debarred, suspended, proposed for disbarment, declared ineligible, or voluntarily excluded from covered transactions by any Federal department or agency;
(b) Have not within a three-year period preceding this application been convicted of or had a civil judgment rendered against them for commission of fraud or a criminal offense in connection with obtaining, attempting to obtain, or performing a public (Federal, State, or local) transaction or contract under a public transaction; violation of Federal or State antitrust statutes or commission of embezzlement, theft, forgery, bribery, falsification or destruction of records, making false statements, or receiving stolen property;
(c) Are not presently indicted for or otherwise criminally or civilly charged by a governmental entity (Federal, State, or local) with commission of any of the offenses enumerated in paragraph (1)(b) of this certification
I imagine insiders are attempting to navigate treacherous waters.  The City of San Angelo bears liability for the unauthorized charges as it received a portion of the monies and it never audited commercial customer bills for contract compliance.

How does one give a long term contract to a company that collected unwarranted fees for years?  This will be an interesting story to watch.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Trashaway-Republic Deal: Considerations from TDS

Texas Disposal Systems posted information on its web site regarding the City of San Angelo's bleak trash situation.  The City needs to act quickly at a time when measured thought would be preferable.  San Angelo's contract with Trashaway-Republic expires in July.

TDS submitted an unsuccessful bid to provide trash collections for residential and commercial customers for the City of San Angelo.  It also proposed to operate the City's landfill, which is rapidly running out of space.  Add that winning bidder Trashaway-Republic billed commercial clients for unauthorized charges for years and things get more bizarre.

San Angelo Live reported:

The first tack is to finish negotiations on the new contract from the RFP selection with Republic, and the second is to fully investigate the suspect Environmental Recovery Fees (ERF), equal to approximately 32% extra on commercial trash collection bills, that Republic has been charging for at least a decade. To date, the City has announced no finding of specific legal authorization for Republic to charge San Angelo's commercial customers the ERF.

Since the 2004 contract is involved in the executive session description, this may be related to the ERF issue. City staff may be poised to offer Council options on how to proceed with the second pathway described above.

Wednesday, the City said the contract negotiations would not be completed in time for the May 6 council meeting.

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela is distancing himself from being involved in the actual trash decision by assuming the role of researcher and facilitator for Council. Once his staff has completed their negotiations and research, the decision on how to proceed will rest almost completely upon Council’s shoulders.

The irony of the matter is the City is discussing litigation with a vendor at the same time it’s negotiating a long-term, multi-million dollar contract.

Possible litigation is on City Council's agenda for Executive Session this Tuesday, June 3, 2014.  However the Trashaway-Republic contract for trash collection and landfill operation is not on the public agenda.

Last November City Council hardly seemed visionary in its discussion of whether to request RFP's for trash collection/landfill operation.  TDS' website provides a rich source of information for interested citizens, as does the City of San Angelo's purchasing department

Stay tuned for future developments, which will likely involve a multi-million dollar settlement with Trashaway-Republic and new long term contract.  The process already left a bad taste in many mouths.  In most cases long term unethical behavior would disallow a vendor from bidding at all.  In Surprising San Angelo it's a detail to work through.

Also, if a City Manager is not making a firm recommendation, coaching staff and shaping the process, then San Angelo has a leadership problem.  The buck stops at the City Manager's office.  If there's no professional management/leadership then City Council has to slog through a staff driven hodge podge on any issue.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Development Corporation to Consider Three Economic Assistance Awards

The City of San Angelo Development Corporation will consider three projects for economic assistance in their May 28th meeting.  They are referred to as 2014-121R, 2014-66L and 2014-126H.  Are any of these codes for the city's economic development agreement with Hirschfeld Steel?  Might that be renegotiated and folded into a new deal?  City Council entertained the Hirschfeld obligation recently in Executive Session. 

In addition the Board will vote whether to pick up the tab for the City's 2014 reclaimed water study (tab $190,000) and Red Arroyo Engineering Study on the underlying water table/liner requirements (tab $111,000).

There also will be discussion regarding a request for qualification for real estate services for the Industrial Park.  The meeting begins at 8:30 am, Wednesday, May 28. 

Update 5-29-14:  Everything water and real estate related passed, i.e. will move forward to the next stage.

Downtown Development Public Meeting June 5th

A City of San Angelo press release stated:

The Downtown Development Commission will conduct a special meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday, June 5, in the McNease Convention Center to discuss and consider the next steps to executing the strategies outlined in a master plan for continuing the revitalization of downtown San Angelo.  

Downtown stakeholders and other interested parties are encouraged to attend the public meeting at the Convention Center, 501 Rio Concho Drive.

The timing is interesting in light of City Council giving Catalyst Urban Development 180 days to generate interest in three city properties.  That happened in December 2013. 

New City Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff characterizes her leadership as development oriented.  She left the city's employ in 2012, the same year a different City Council approved engaging Catalyst for downtown development.

It will be interesting to see what comes back to City Council and any projected consulting fees for taking the next step.   

Paying Water Bill by Phone Starts Soon

The City of San Angelo not only has more water to sell, customers will be able to pay their water bill by phone next week.  The City put out a request for proposal for automated phone systems in October 2012.  A new Water Chief Ricky Dickson proposed the city purchase a system in April 2013. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

City's 2013 CAFR

Armstrong Backus' Mike Bodiford presented the 2013 audit report to City Council on Tuesday.  The city earned an unqualified, unmodified or clean opinion.  He highlighted a few numbers:

Government wide net assets of $226 million
Positive net change of $13 million in assets over the year
Individual fund statements showed:
  General fund balance of $21 million - nearly all of it unassigned
  General fund rose by $6.6 million over the year
  Water fund net position of  $97 million
  Water fund rose by $7.7 million during the year
Those are some of Bodiford's highlights.  He pointed out the last footnote on page 71.  It states an accounting change for pensions will go into place in 2015.  They don't know the exact number but it will be a $60-70 million increased liability. 

The city had $4.6 million in federal funds in 2013.  For the first time in years the city did not have a deficiency in their handling of federal funds.  The audit does not mention federal Early Retiree Reinsurance Program monies which the city finally used in 2013 after sitting on the funds for years.

Employee Retiree Health Insurance showed a disturbing decrease in cash position, starting the year at $1.7 million and ending at $410,000.  This fund grew over the last four years.  That pattern shifted with the city using over 75% of the fund balance in 2013.

Pensions and health insurance should figure heavily in Council's upcoming strategic planning session.  The CAFR demands attention in these areas.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Silvas Trusts City Staff: Marcelli in for Animal Services

Councilman Johnny Silvas re-offered Linda Marcelli as his nomination for San Angelo's Animal Services Board.  He did so with full knowledge of Marcelli's past statements which include putting a bounty or payout for feral cats killed. 

Contrast the stance of Silvas' appointee with the position of City Council candidate Jim Turner (courtesy of Concho Valley PAWS):

Catch neuter and release for feral cats has been effective in some cities but it has to be part of an active and effective enforcement and education program. We have to get better at providing free or at least low cost spay and neuter services so that extra pets aren't just abandoned to the streets. We have to show the public and government officials and workers that proactive programs actually cost less in the long run than the wait until some wheel squeaks approach we have today. Until we get a knowledgeable, active, better staffed and better funded animal services department and an active public education program the rest of your questions pretty much are dealing with window dressing. 

Marcelli is a step backwards from the knowledgeable, active animal services department referenced above.  She represents obstruction and the city's woeful status quo, which is reflected in another statement by Jim Turner. 

The kill rate is far too high but hasn't really changed much over the last decade. Funding for the animal shelter won't do any good until a wholesale house cleaning happens and better people get hired. Those that know the difference between herbicide and pesticide.

Local animal service group noticed the "first full term" appointment of Linda Marcelli, who previously served on the Animal Services Board from 2009-2013.  How does someone who served four years already obtain a first full term appointment in 2014?

Marcelli was not Silvas' only option.  The Councilman relied on City staff to push Marcelli over any alternatives.  He wrote in an e-mail.  

The City Staff were in total agreement with her appointment.  Many thought that she would bring a "balance" to the group as a whole.  

"Balance" is patently laughable for anyone who's listened to Linda in a meeting or read the minutes showing her uninformed, visceral and violent positions.

City staff want more of the same and Silvas delivered.  Any proactive work will continue to be done outside the city's auspices.  And it will be done by at least one longtime community member willing to serve, but not appointed. 

Linda Marcelli vowed to block the group working to officially establish feral cat colonies every step of the way.  If city staff can't conduct or support the work, please quit blocking those who do with their own time and personal resources.  That also applies to Councilman Silvas' new appointee to the Animal Services Board. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

City's Public Information Department No Longer Answers Questions from This Public

Public Information Officer Anthony Wilson informed me his office will no longer answer my questions on issues.  I requested a copy of the 2006 Reclaimed Water Study by Alan Plummer.

I passed this along to City Clerk Alicia Ramirez, who processes public information requests. She asked that you please fill out a public information request for this and all future requests. You can find the form here.

Anthony Wilson 
Public Information Officer 
City of San Angelo, Texas
From my seat the public information office morphed into a public messaging center.  Anyway, here's my lament:

I truly appreciate the years of service Ty Meighan and you provided me by getting my questions answered without having to complete PIR forms.  I sensed the change with my last few requests, increased paperwork and the City twice asking the Attorney General's Office to keep public information private.  I prevailed on the first and we await the AG's decision on the second.

Now it's official.  It doesn't feel like the city wants to answer questions from the public anymore. 

I guess you recognize good service when it goes away.  I didn't envision this happening after newly sworn in Mayor Morrison's opening talk with the public.  I thought the city would be much more open and transparent, not less.

Also, I have the memory of Interim City Manager Michael Dane wanting me to feel free to approach you to have my questions answered so I could get things right.   But then again, things change.  Be sure to congratulate Michael on his Transparency award.  And you should continue to bask in your awards, as well. 

In our Topsy-turvy world "service" means bureaucratic impediments and "openness" means closedness.

Anthony's e-mail differs from the city's website, which states.

Additionally, Public Information answers inquiries from the public daily.  Call the Public Information Office at 325-481-2727 if you have questions about San Angelo's municipal government.

What's been others' experience?  I'd like to know.  As for the 2006 Reclaimed Water Study the City can just post the document on their website for all to see.  I'd be satisfied with a link.

Update 6-26-19:  San Angelo's aggressive media defender Anthony Wilson will become Town Manager for Belgrade, Maine.  Do they have a Benedetti machine?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

City Council to Face Monsters Created by Will

San Angelo's City Council will face a number of items impacted by former Director of Public Works Will Wilde  From 1989 to 2004 Wilde worked as Public Works director. From 2004, he served as Water Utilities Director.  Here they are:

Reclaimed Water Use:  Agenda item #11 is a repeat study regarding the City's use of reclaimed water.  The secret Reclaimed Water study from 2006 returns as an apparition in the 2014 proposal.  Will Wilde used the original study to steer treated water to his cotton hobby farm.  There is no record of City Council approval to conduct the 2006 study or the study's cost to taxpayers.  The document has never been made available to the public.  However, it will be heavily used in the current analysis.

Former Assistant City Manager Elizabeth Grindstaff witnessed Will's antics on reclaimed water, as well as the Furniture Fiasco (in which she had a starring role).  This will be her first meeting as City Councilwoman for SMD #5.

Earlier this month Assistant Water Chief Kevin Krueger slayed Will's fiction that farmers traded their unpredictable Twin Buttes water rights for predictable reclaimed water from the City.  Under Water Czar Will Wilde farmers kept their Twin Buttes rights while adding 100% of the city's treated water.   

Water Rate Increase:  Agenda item #13 is the water rate schedule.  Wilde treated Water Department revenues as his to dole out.  City Council thought they'd gotten rid of any excess charges to the public that weren't water related, but they remain to this day.  Water rates have been raised to "encourage conservation."  When citizen's conserved, surprise!  Rates needed to be raised again. That's because the city views water as a revenue source.  Council repeatedly asked Wilde and his successors to bring us ways we can encourage people to use limited water resources more wisely, low volume toilets, xeriscaping, rainwater capture systems, etc..  None delivered.

City's 2013 Financial Audit:  Agenda item #14 is the City's Comprehensive Audit Financial Report (CAFR) which chronicled the city's reliance on water revenues over the years.  Auditors gave the presentation in November last year, so the timing is interesting.  Pension liabilities should be massive (due to GASB changes). 

Fixing City Streets:  Agenda item #16 will propose funding solutions for street reconstruction and maintenance.  Wilde was responsible for street maintenance until 2004.  At that point current Ricky Dickson took over streets as Director of Operations.  As a pair they were responsible for ensuring streets reached their thirty year life, if properly maintained.  Prior city councils were responsible for providing funding for street upkeep, but its up to staff to educate them on the need and the dire consequences of failure.

The presentation Tuesday will likely be sobering.  City leaders allowed our streets to deteriorate to the point that massive investment will need to be made.  Coming after the financial audit, this hill will seem much steeper.

Waste Removal/Landfill Operation:  This item is not on the regular agenda but may be discussed in executive session.  The period of Trashaway's thirty five year relationship with the city, 1989-2004, exactly mirrored Will Wilde's tenure as Public Works Director.  The city extended the contract in 2004, Wilde's last year as Public Works Director, for ten years.  This will be the first non-Will trash/landfill contract in over three decades.

Trashaway-Republic operated the landfill as a regional operation, with 50% of the trash coming from surrounding counties.  There have been no credible efforts to reduce trash use (recycling, composting) during the city's relationship with Trashaway-Republic.  As the landfill nears the end of its useful life, trash management becomes critical.  Add the concern that Trashaway-Republic billed commercial customers unapproved charges for years, and the prospect of a rushed renewal seems tainted.

Closing:  On numerous occasions Will Wilde ignored City Council directives and did his own thing.  The public finally noticed Will Wilde's unethical side and pressure grew to the point he resigned.  The City faces a number of Will Wilde associated monsters.  I expect very little to be said about the current consequences faced due to prior actions.  The sad part is Will's vision is embedded in these arenas.  It's time to craft a new vision, one that moves forward ethically and openly. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

City Settles Sexual Harrassment Case Involving ex-Mayor

The Times Record News reported:

Almost a year after San Angelo ex-Mayor Joseph “J.W.” Lown moved to Mexico with his male lover, attorneys quietly settled a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit brought against him and the city of San Angelo by a male city employee.

The employee claimed he lost his job after rejecting the mayor’s sexual advances and complaining about a hostile work environment at the city airport.
 The city claimed otherwise.

(Assistant City Manager Elizabeth) Grindstaff said she fired Mercado because of documented performance issues and disagreed with his description of Lown as having a propensity toward sexual harassment.

“How would I know that? Why would I think that?” she said. “I have no knowledge of that nor do I believe that to be a known behavior of then-mayor Lown.”

I guess the distinction is being gay vs. sexually harassing city employees.  Most of San Angelo knew he was gay.  This isn't as bad as her public ignorance on the city's failure to pursue reclaimed water under her tenure in city government. 

Lown said Mercado’s accusations are hurtful, and he never paid a penny to settle.  “I wish him the best in his career and life. We had a friendship,” Lown said.
The City paid many pennies to settle.  Did any funds come from their Directors and Officers coverage?

The city acknowledges that airport maintenance supervisor Noel Delgado left a male swimsuit calendar in Mercado’s chair at work in late 2007. In addition to his lawsuit, Mercado filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In its response to that complaint, the city said Mercado considered the calendar incident to be sexual harassment.

Delgado and Elguezabal were disciplined over the incident, and a female employee was transferred to another department, according to the lawsuit.
Grindstaff said she counseled employees over the calendar issue expeditiously, and Mercado’s firing in June 2008 had nothing to do with Lown, retaliation for Mercado filing a grievance with the city or anything except Mercado’s work performance.
  The City settled the case for $20,000.

Mercado first filed the lawsuit in the Dallas Division of federal court, and attorneys for the city embarked on a battle, which they eventually won, to transfer the case to the San Angelo Division.

Attorneys on both sides settled the lawsuit in U.S. Northern District Court in spring 2010. Both it and the appeals case were dismissed as a result of the settlement.  Wilson said the settlement is on file in Northern District Court.  Attempts to obtain it have been unsuccessful.
The case regarding jurisdiction is available, as is a webpage on the case from a Houston law firm.

The trial got moved from Dallas to San Angelo in U.S. Courts.  Will the story make it home from Wichita Falls within Scripps Howard?

Update 5-19-14:  The Standard Times ran most of the story on this day just before midnight.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Selling MedHab to Greeks

Gnomes reported:

MedHab, LLC., a privately held athletic and medical device company focused on the development of unique rehabilitative and sport-enhancing tools, announced today that Johnny Ross, President and Chief Executive Officer of MedHab and inventor of RPM2, will be presenting and delivering a product demonstration during the 7th International Conference on PErvasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA) on May 27 – 30, 2014, at the Hotel Aldemar Paradise Mare in Rhodes Island, Greece.

The presentation, titled, “Development of a Smart Insole Tracking System for Physical Therapy and Athletes,” will discuss MedHab’s remote technology, found in the company’s RPM2 and StepRite devices, and how it assists healthcare professionals efficiently develop personalized physical therapy programs for their patients.  

Following the presentation, Mr. Ross will provide a product demonstration of the smart insole tracking system.
MedHab is the reason San Angelo's City Council loosened its economic development funding criteria.  Council did so to enable Mayor Alvin New's remaining a MedHab investor, serving on the company's Board of Directors and staying Mayor while MedHab got a $3.6 million incentive from the City of San Angelo.  Fortunately, Council reversed this loophole in the last year.

MedHab is in the midst of its fourth capital raise.  Will Ross inspire any European investor interest?  I believe that to be highly likely.

Trash-Landfill RFP Questions

I found a number of RFP Addendum questions interesting.  They are:

Q:  The current entrance facilities are owned by Trashaway. Does the City have an agreement for transfer of those facilities to a successful respondent?
Response: The entrance facilities as detailed are owned by Trashaway Services. The City has no agreement or expectations of an agreement for transfer or sale of these facilities.

Q:  Will the City accept carts manufactured outside the United States?
Response: Carts manufactured within the United Stated are preferred but not required.

Q:  Where will residents be required to place their carts for collection?
Response: Residences with rear garage access in alleys shall be collected in the alley. All other residences will have collection services performed on the street.

Q:  Is there excess waste located outside the existing Landfill permit boundary?
Response: No

Q.  Have there been any Notices of Violations (NOVs) in the last three years at the Landfill?
Response: No

Q:  Dead Animal Acceptance: Provide the quantity of dead animals disposed of from the City Animal Shelter.
Response: Approximately 8,720 carcasses last year.

Q:  Does the storm debris from 1995 have to be relocated at the Landfill?
Response: No. All debris resulting from the storm in 1995 was placed with an allowance by the TCEQ.

Q:  Remaining Disposal Capacity – Cell 11A Airspace – Page 5: What is the estimated completion date and an estimated cost of construction of Cell 11A.
Response: Estimated time of completion for Cell 11A is June 2014. The cost to construct the cell is not anticipated to exceed $1.3 million.

I'm sure there are more tantalizing tidbits in the bid documents.  I welcome anyone to share their findings. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

City Intent on Recycling Trashaway-Republic Contract

The City of San Angelo offered two main reasons for Trashaway-Republic's bid being selected for a negotiated contract.  The first:

Republic was the only vendor to offer a plan to align with San Angelo’s three existing recycling collectors. The City Council has expressed an interest in such an arrangement to ensure that those enterprises are not put out of business.
This was not in the overall RFP or the subsection on Waste Collection Specifications, nor could it be found in the Landfill Lease and Operations Specifications.  It appears vendors were uninformed of what became a distinguishing criteria for the city to choose Trashaway-Republic.  How did Trashaway-Republic become aware of this criteria?

What if the city chose a distinguishing, unspecified criteria that won't come into play?  RFP Addendum #1 Appendix D states:

a.  When will the City decide whether to include recyclables material collection under an exclusive contract?

Response: City Council has stated they currently do not wish to include recyclables in an exclusive contract.
On to the second stated reason for choosing Trashaway-Republic:

Also, TDS’ proposed rate for residential trash pickup (including the recycling component) was 64 percent higher than Republic’s proposed rate.
TDS's response to this came from CEO Bob Gregory:

While TDS has no idea what Republic Services has offered the City for residential trash and recyclables collection or any other service in their RFP response, and cannot know if this is a true statement, it is important to note that TDS responded to the RFP with seven different options and rate plans for residential trash and recyclables collection.  The service level that the City staff chose to publicize (weekly collection of both trash and recyclables with separate carts) was the highest rate that we provided.  TDS offered options for every other week single stream recycling which lowered the monthly rate substantially.  Every other week single stream recycling service is considered the standard service level in most parts of the country.  This is because the size of the recycling cart is large enough to be serviced every other week, instead of weekly.  This option also significantly reduces truck traffic on City roads. Were any of the other TDS proposals considered in the evaluation, or was only the most expensive once weekly recyclable collection service option evaluated?  None of the other TDS options were mentioned in the briefing or in the published statements of the PIO. Given the City staff’s mention of Republic’s alignment with recycling collectors, I wonder whether the City staff is comparing a full blown single stream recycling program with a program allowing a local subcontractor to collect recyclables with or without an additional charge to residents.  Nevertheless, City staff should have acknowledged whether its price comparison is for comparable service. 
The city has been silent to date on Mr. Gregory's questions. 

It would be odd to exclude a vendor based on a service not specified and another service that's unwanted.  There are other interesting tidbits in the RFP documents, but I'll save those for another post. 

Trashaway-Republic Contract Coming Soon

The City of San Angelo extended its trash hauling/landfill operation contract in 2004 for a ten year period.  With less than a year left City Council considered re-uping with Trashaway-Republic.  Two months later Council directed staff to seek competitive bids.  City Council minutes stated:

General discussion was held on whether to have an exclusive or open market contract and whether to base the contract term on the life of the site or fixed term. Mr. Kelton suggested separating the landfill and collection function as two separate contracts with the same term to maximize negotiations. In conclusion, Council directed staff to conduct a request for proposal. Mr. Kelton noted this process would allow staff to know the true value of the City’s asset and what is best for citizens. He noted upon review, the proposals maybe rejected and staff may renegotiate the contract with Republic Services.

It took four more months to get the RFP posted and bids in.  A committee found Trashaway-Republic's bid far superior to Texas Disposal Systems.  The group essentially had less than five business days to do their work, given the two weekends between March 21 and April 1.  Roughly one month after their decision City leaders held a press conference to explain their logic to citizens

It became a tougher sell after news broke that  Trashaway-Republic included unauthorized charges in bills for its commercial customers, part of the franchise awarded by the city.  I wondered what the city had done over the years to ensure Trashaway-Republic lived up to the terms of its contract.  Had they audited any bills over the 37 year period for contract compliance? 

This trash deal started under Will Wilde, shifted to Ricky Dickson and now is under Shane Kelton.  Will didn't have to answer to anybody.  Dickson and Kelton look continually surprised that their answers are less than complete and informative.

The process focused on renewing Republic from square one.  It hasn't been open and transparent, despite recent efforts by city leaders.

There's usually more to discover when good ole boys operate laissez faire for decades.  We'll see what else crawls out from under the landfill cover. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

City Seeks Bids for New Landfill Cell

The City published another landfill related Request for Proposal.  The scope of work states:
The City of San Angelo is requesting bids for the construction of a 6.5 acre solid waste cell at the City of San Angelo Landfill. Construction of the cell will include general excavation, subgrade preparation, and installation of protective cover and leachate collection system components.
Submittals are due by May 23rd.   Oddly, the City's contract with Trashaway-Republic Services includes these very items as the contractor's responsibility.

What appeared to be a conflict in fact was not.  The City's contract with Trashaway-Republic prohibits the contractor from building a new cell in the last two years of the agreement without the express written consent of the city. 

I found the RFP evaluation criteria interesting in light of the varying criteria the city used for waste collection and landfill operation.

1.1.7. Evaluation Criteria
Cost (75%)
Respondent shall provide detailed cost information as outlined in the Request. In analyzing Proposals, the City may take into consideration alternates and unit prices.
Respondents Reputation for Products/ Services (20%)
Respondent shall provide a list of References for similar projects, including the identification of the City and contact information, a description of the project, and any relevant information regarding the similarities of past projects not otherwise readily apparent. (All references shall be for work completed in the last five (5) years). Additionally, respondent should identify whether any projects identified herein resulted in claims, litigation or arbitration.
Past Relationship with the Municipality and Local Experience (5%)
Respondent shall provide a list of References for similar projects completed for the City of San Angelo, including a description of the project, and any relevant information regarding the similarities of past project not otherwise readily apparent. (All references shall be for work completed in the last five (5) years)
Experience with Projects in the City Of San Angelo Area (within 150 mile Radius) (5%)
Respondent shall provide a list of References for similar projects completed in the general area of City of San Angelo, including a description of the project, City contact information, and any relevant information regarding the similarities of past project not otherwise readily apparent. (All references shall be for work completed in the last five (5) years)

The City's weighting adds up to 105%.  The varying cost weights in this arena are as follows:

Waste Collection - Cost 15%
Landfill Operation - Cost 35%
New Landfill Cell - Cost 75%

Disclosure:  This post was updated based on my finding contract language regarding new landfill cells in the City's Trashaway-Republic agreement.  

City Trash Situation Serious

The machinations around the City of San Angelo's finally bidding trash and landfill services come with a serious backdrop.  The first consideration is, after waiting 34 years to seek competitive bids, time is short.

The remaining life stood at 34 years in 2006.  It fell to 11 years in 2013.  In seven years time the landfill's remaining life dropped by twenty three years.  That's a three year projected drop for every calendar year.  Using this rate of change the City's landfill would be exhausted within five years.

Trash dumped at the landfill increased dramatically the last two years.

Since 1989 one vendor, Trashaway-Republic Services, provided San Angelo's trash collection service and operated the City's landfill.  

The city broke the bidding into trash collection and landfill operationConchoInfo's Jim Turner admonished staff for not sharing the evaluation criteria and methodology for scoring the two bids received, Trashaway-Republic and Texas Disposal Systems.  The criteria listed in city bids documents are:

There are large weighting differences between the two services.  "Financial Impact" garners up to 35 points in the landfill portion but only 15 points in trash collection.  Similarly, "Adherence to Specifications" is 30 points for waste collection but only 10 points for the landfill operation.

Jim Turner did a nice job of summarizing his numerous concerns regarding this process on ConchoInfo.  I don't plan to rehash any of his fine observations, but will add a few thoughts as I delve into this trashy matter.

Update 9-19-18:  Winning bidder Republic Services wants to back away from its recycling contractual commitments.   City staff and Republic will host public meetings on possible changes.

COSADC Developments

City of San Angelo Development Corporation approved the software license for estimating economic impact of increased employment under the city's various economic development agreements.  Economic Development Director Tony Pena believes Impact DataSource's $5,000 total price provides value given a one time analysis by an outside firm would cost $900 to $1200.  I look forward to seeing this software used on the city's various agreements.   Will it compare MedHab's promised vs. actual jobs delivered?

Later in the meeting the question arose as to when the City should terminate  agreements with no activity.  Staff mentioned MyMail as one needing to be closed.  Look for this item to return to the agenda sometime in the next three months.

Possibly the most interesting development regarded the airport redesign.  The City submitted a change order to the FAA for the airport's exterior in December 2012.  Due to an FAA change the city must go back to square one in seeking public and airline input on the change order.  This is a sixty to ninety day process, which is just beginning again. 

The Airport exterior change order will cost $270,000.  The Airport Director said he would not ask for additional COSADC funds but requested the board consider endorsing a $185,000 line of credit.  He said he'd bring back more information in the next meeting.

Under staff reports Pena said he was working to create efficiency.  He mentioned the dedication of a portion of the half cent sales tax to street maintenance and asked the board to remain aware of this possibility.  Also, the Texas Governor's Office will be invited to BRC-partnership meetings.

Staff recommended pursuing a site certification for the City's Industrial Park.  This is done through McCallum-Sweeney, a site selection consulting company.  They help companies looking to expand or move.  Here's what they examine for employers:

• Sites and/or building suitability
• Site preparation
Utility infrastructure (availability, capacity, cost, reliability)
• Transportation infrastructure
• Demographics
• Labor markets (availability, quality, costs)
• Training resources and delivery
• Education (primary, secondary, postsecondary)
• Taxes
• Financing opportunities
• Quality of life (e.g., medical services, housing availability and cost, etc.)
• Leadership and political climate
• Incentives
In addition McCallum-Sweeney works for organizations, like COSADC. 

Site Certification/Assessment – One of the fastest growing trends in the site selection business is the demand for certified industrial sites. Companies looking to build new facilities want sites that are ready to go and relatively risk free. MSC will design and implement a relevant certified site initiative to help communities identify those sites that are most ready for development. MSC has designed and managed many of the nation's most significant site certification efforts. This experience enables us to know the challenges of establishing a successful program – we know what works and what does not. MSC knows what the sponsoring organizations need to do to create the buy-in and participation necessary to make the program a success. We can help you design an innovative and effective certified site program to meet your goals.

Pena did not mention any cost to this certification in the meeting.  We'll see if it arises in the future. 

COSADC staffer Bob Schneeman informed the board that the Industrial Park is lacking underground power, other than one phase power to operate street lights.  During the sales process the City indicated three phase power to be already underground.  He said there would a cost to run three phase power to Cased Hole Solutions and he would bring this item back to the board.

Lastly, staff indicated the company developing the Grand Court Residences decided not to apply for funding and would not be using the $200,000 COSADC loan.  Those are a few of the highlights. 

There was no mention of Hirschfeld's performance on the economic development agreement, considered by City Council in Executive Session on April 15th.  MedHab did not come up either.   Stay tuned for developments on either front.

City Council met this week and COSADC stood front and center on two issues, city insider conflicts of interest regarding economic development funding and the street maintenance funding via the half cent sales tax.  The Development Corporation and Council will intertwine heavily the next few months.  It will be interesting to track.   

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Permit Department Goes IVR

San Angelo's City Council heard complaints about the new automated voice answering system used by the Permit Department.  In today's Orwellian world such systems are put in place to improve customer service, when the public hates those very systems.  They save an organization money, which is why they're universal and universally detested.  Once customers are trained, the city expects them to be happier.  Time will tell.  However, Mayor Morrison found out pressing #5 will get a caller a real person.  Feel free to use this bit of public information.

Update 11-23-14:  The automated system will be greatly modified with the addition of an Office Assistant to answer the phone. This is a new position intended to make the system more user friendly.. 

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Alan Plummer to Take Second Crack at Reclaimed Water Plan

The City of San Angelo has a Reclaimed Water Use plan according to Alan Plummer Associates Inc., the firm engaged to do the latest round of reuse planning.  Alan Plummer conducted the city's 2006 Reclaimed Water Feasibility Study, which is extensively mentioned in the 2014 Contract-Attachment A.

The 2006 plan was never made public, but here's what Attachment A says about it:
1.  Key findings from the 2006 Reclaimed Water Feasibility Study will be shared at the Kick-Off Meeting for the 2014 plan (Task #1).

2.  Using the 2006 study as a basis(with any updates provided by city staff), APAI will identify potential service areas within the city that could be served with a nonpotable water (purple pipe) system  (Task #4).

3.  Review recent water usage data for any additional users for the City, not included in the 2006 study, or for users whose usage may have changed due to expansion or change of water use practices, as identified by the city (Task #4a).
4.  Review treatment upgrades recommended in the 2006 study and update as appropriate (Task #4d).    

It's not clear who saw the 2006 study but the end result had all of San Angelo's reclaimed water going to irrigation. 

Alan Plummer Associates also did a 2011 study for the Texas Water Development Board titled "History of Water Reuse in Texas."  That same year Water Chief Will Wilde defended reclaimed water's sole irrigation focus.

Will Wilde personally benefited from this irrigation water.  He owns a 300 acre cotton farm at the head of the irrigation canal.  Wilde is gone and the ball is in new Water Chief Ricky Dickson's and City Council's court.

Council will take up the projected cost for the 2014 study, roughly $190,000.  That's just for the study. Changes are sure to be much more expensive.

Update 5-7-14:  City Council postponed the decision on the proposal until their next meeting.  The tenor of the discussion sounds like the study will be approved on 5-19.

Understanding Water Reuse in San Angelo

City Council candidate Elizabeth Grindstaff spoke to KLST about reclaimed water, one subject at this Tuesday's City Council meeting.  She said:

We have communities using effluent water, reclaimed water.  And why the city has not looked at that seriously for the last ten to fifteen years, I don't understand why.  I would love to hear that having worked in other cities where reclaimed water was an important component of the water portfolio.  I would be a proponent of that.

Grindstaff may not have heard why, but she could've read a major factor on this blog.  It concerns her fellow Furniture Fiasco player, Water Chief Will Wilde.

Wilde negotiated the deal that traded irrigation rights to water from Twin Buttes' South Pool for the city's reclaimed water.  Twin Buttes irrigation rights required the lake contain 50,000 acre feet of water and are not useable in times of lingering drought.  So, San Angelo's Water Chief traded a "pig in a poke" for a sure thing, San Angelo's reclaimed water.

This enabled Tom Green County Irrigation and Water Control District farmers to have a predictable supply of water.  Will Wilde is one of those farmers, operating a 300 acre cotton farm.  He successfully defended his deal while Elizabeth Grindstaff served as Assistant City Manager.  Here's Wilde's position in 2011:

According to San Angelo’s water manager Will Wilde, the city is nowhere near actively pursuing the use of wastewater for municipal use.

Surely, someone inside City Hall expressed concern about Will's conflict of interest.  I'm surprised Elizabeth didn't catch wind of it.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

City Council: Reclaimed Water Study + Animal Services Board Nominee

San Angelo's City Council will consider a proposal under agenda item #15::

Consideration of awarding RFQ: WU-14-13 to Alan Plummer Associates, Inc. to evaluate reclaimed water alternatives including non-potable and potable reuse alternatives in the amount not to exceed $189,965.00--Presentation by Water Utilities Director Ricky Dickson

Later in the meeting Council will take up board appointments, including a member of the Animal Services Board.  It shows Linda Marcelli as up for her first full term.  Consider her record on the Animal Services board from August 18, 2011.

Dr. Russell – it’s obvious we have a problem around town with feral cats so here’s where we discuss how to deal with them. Any ideas? 
Faye – what about TV time? Or we could offer cages to trap them for the shelter
Julie – we get calls all the time about this issue and we advise where to by the traps. We have a few on hand and would love to supply them but people have abused the privilege before so we no longer can. Harbor Freights, I believe, is the cheapest. 

Faye – this is a real problem in San Angelo. We need to get the message out to the general public. Sometimes people don’t think about how they can help with the problem 
Julie – there are organic remedies on how to get rid of them like cayane pepper or mothballs and not feeding your animals outside. 
Linda – the city seems like it wants to throw the problem onto the citizens but the city needs a program in place to deal with this 
Susan – the goal is to decrease the population 
Julie – we do already pick up all trapped feral cats 
Linda – this is not against you, but the city needs to take responsibility for this. Right now it’s on the home owners and citizens and the city needs to step up. Spay and neuter or kill the cats. All of your suggestions throw all responsibility back on the public 
Julie – I am sure the city would want to help in any way they can but there’s money involved 
Susan – I don’t really feel like there’s enough awareness out there and that brings me back to TV/radio advertisements. I think more people would be more responsible if they were more aware 
Linda – I know some people will feed these cats and like having them around, but they see them as semi-pets and they’re not taking responsibility for them
Julie – yes we have certain ‘problem’ houses that we will go to and talk to owners about. We do try to go out and educate 

Tom – I have a comment about killing cats. That may be a great idea to get rid of feral cats but the problem is that that could also affect owned cats 
Linda – yes but owned cats are not supposed to be outside as far as city ordinance is concerned but it’s not enforced. 
Dr. Russell – does anyone know if any other cities have policies in place
Linda – I’ll ask Abilene 
Dr. Russell – it seems like the problem is bigger here but I’m sure it’s not a problem that’s unique to us. I disagree with poisoning and would much prefer trapping because you never know what you might kill with poison and it’s more humane 
Linda – but by having a lot more trapping, the shelter would have a lot more cats to handle. How many are adoptable? 
Julie – we hold them for the stray hold if they’re not sick but we judge what is adoptable by their temperament 
Faye – do you let people know that some of these cats are feral? 
Julie – we have a wild cat room where we place the feral cats so while we have some people who have reclaimed their wild cat we don’t adopt out cats that have the potential to hurt someone 
Faye – has anyone wanted to specifically adopt out a feral cat?
Julie – no, we can’t adopt them out 

Linda – can the shelter handle the larger influx of cats if we had some kind of trapping program? 
Julie – we would have to. We do what we can 
Dr. Russell – ok we can check more into that later and possibly come up with a proposal
Fast forward to February 13, 2013 when Health Services Director Sandra Villareal stated in a Animal Services Board meeting that she'd done research on other cities' feral cat ordinances. 

Sandra – I put this issue on the agenda to find out what y’all want to do. I did some research about other cities’ feral cat ordinance. Dallas has a TNR program and those colonies are managed by 2 rescue organizations. Denton’s colonies are registered and managed by the city. Ft. Worth, in my opinion, has a really good program. The animal groups have to comply with the ordinances and the city approves sponsors (rescues) to manage these programs. Caregivers who fall under sponsors have responsibilities and it’s all laid out on paper in defined rules. Lubbock and Alamo Heights have the city run their whole program which I think is too much. So see what y’all want to do about this. Do you want to pursue it or leave as is?
Linda – I see no reason to pass an ordinance because we don’t enforce what have now. And there are no groups stepping up to fix the issue because they can’t afford to
Julie – yes we do manage cats, we just can’t chase them around with a snare pole. We will pick up cats in traps or injured cats and we have traps to loan out
Linda – why does the city insist people by their own trap? It’s ridiculous. The city should purchase these traps 

Julie – we had them at one time and they were damaged by people, the resources were depleted and some people would just rather buy their own. We don’t have the resources to handle everyone 
Linda – I’m tired of fighting about this. No one cares; no one wants to take responsibility. We should just take it off the agenda 
Wendy – we try but we have a hard time with not enough staff 
Linda – I understand 
Tom – the city should require a deposit for the trap that way when it’s returned without damage, they can get the deposit back 
Julie – that’s a good idea and we had that at my other job, but San Angelo people don’t have the money for that. We go out and chain the trap and log it and talk to people about feeding feral cats. We have a handle on it 
Faye – is there a length of time that they have the traps? 
Julie – it depends but usually 7-10 days
Why is this appointment important?  Because the city needs partners to manage and reduce San Angelo's burgeoning cat population.  Linda Marcelli has proven for three years she is not a partner.  City Council could do better with someone from a local rescue organization, one that helps save dogs and cats.

As for Marcelli's 2013 statement that there are no groups stepping up to deal with the feral cat issue, she's flat out wrong.  Angelo State University's Cat Coalition, in existence since February 2012, has spayed/neutered over 100 feral cats.  Critter Shack conducted a number of cat spay/neuter clinics.  They fixed over 1,000 cats since last November. 

If local citizens don't want to help with the problem that's fine.  Just don't get in the way of those doing the work.  This applies to  Linda Marcelli, about to be reappointed to the Animal Services Board, and her sponsor, Health Services Director Sandra Villareal.  I believe the City can do better.  To get good candidates the city must first be a good partner.  That is yet to happen in the animal services arena.

P.S. -- There are no Animal Services Board minutes to peruse on the City's new website.  There are three agendas for 2014 but no minutes.

Update 5-19-14:  May 20 City Council has Linda Marcelli back on the agenda for nomination to the Animal Services Board.  E-mails to Councilman Silvas for clarification on this development have not yet received a response.