Marquette botched handling of new waste agreement

As long as we are on a roll with questioning the city of Marquette for the way they handled filling Sara Cambensey’s vacant seat, we have to also question the way the city commission handled the trash removal contract for Marquette residents

First off, they allowed Waste Management to submit a bid on a hybrid program using both bags and carts. This was not part of the bidding process, so they changed the rules of the game midstream by allowing one bidder the option of submitting a hybrid bid rather than requiring all groups to bid on the same option.

In our opinion, the city circumvented the bidding process by allowing one business the opportunity to bid on a hybrid system that was not included in the original bid proposal process. Commissioners also did not go with the lowest bid, and they now find themselves and the residents of Marquette with the curve ball of no longer being able to consider glass as a recyclable material.

Eagle Waste & Recycling representatives offered to meet with commissioners to outline their plans and answer questions, but only one commissioner, Peter Frazier, took the time to meet with them. Frazier was also the only commissioner to vote against Waste Management’s hybrid bid. The other commissioners made their decisions without having a good working knowledge of what was being offered. The city of Marquette did have a department head meet with Eagle Waste & Recycling, but the city manager did not meet with them.

Second, they did not take the lowest bid for the new garbage disposal system for the city of Marquette. Eagle Waste & Recycling told us their bid was around $185,000 lower than Waste Management.

Third, Eagle Waste & Recycling was going to a single-steam recycling program, meaning residents would not have to separate any recyclables. You would put all recyclables in the same cart, including fiber and rigids, and they would pick up recycling every other week. They also would accept glass as part of the recycling program.

We met with Eagle Waste & Recycling and they seemed, in our opinion, to have by far the best recycling program for the city of Marquette. Just by the fact that Eagle Waste & Recycling, out of Eagle River, Wisconsin, made a bid, the cost to the city for waste removal went down by about $200,000. If the city had taken the bid from Eagle Recycling the cost to the city would have been reduced by closer to $385,000 per year. This is taxpayers’ money and the city chose not to take the lower-cost bid.

A problem with the initial recycling contract surfaced recently when the city had to vote on an amended contract for recycling that no longer allows glass to be recycled. When the amended recycling contract was put in front of the commission, Commissioners Frazier and Mike Conley voted against it. Frazier voted no on the original contract and Conley said this amendment language would have changed his decision for the recent trash-hauling contract. Other commissioners were also unhappy with the change, but felt they had already made the agreement to make the change, so they had no choice but to support the amended recycling contract.

We believe that single-stream recycling is where most municipalities will be in the future. This is what Eagle Waste & Recycling offered in their contract. We also predict that the cost with Waste Management will exceed the contract language in the near future with a variety of surcharges being passed on to the city of Marquette.

We do understand why the city was concerned about supporting the Marquette County Landfill’s recycling program, which is important for the entire county. We do feel that given the opportunity Eagle Waste & Recycling would have worked with the landfill’s governing board to support them and work toward a single-stream recycling system.

We realize that the decision has been made and we now have to live with it. We don’t believe this entire process was handled properly. Marquette residents were not able to take advantage of the lower-cost bid and a more convenient recycling program.

In our role as a community watchdog, we will be keeping a close eye on future cost increases and amendments to the original contract to try to protect taxpayers in the city of Marquette.