Montrose City Councilors approved staff recommendations on April 2 to reject outside proposals submitted for providing such services.
"We need to go forward with the best program…which is the one from the city and incorporate what we can from the desirables that came out of the city's proposal," Councilor Carol McDermott said.
The City of Montrose has been discussing the possibility of privatizing its sanitation department since last year. While reviewing its 2012 budget, the staff revealed that the city could not longer sustain its free curbside recycling program, in place for the past three years.
Attempts to remedy the problem by adding either a $3 sanitation fee or a $6 fee for recycling customers was shot down by councilors and their constituents.
The city put out a request for information from private companies willing to take over the service, but those RFIs yielded very little detail to what the cost savings might be for the city.
So the city put out a request for proposal –noting it could reject any or all proposals – and received six responses, one from the City of Montrose.
After review by staff and a volunteer citizens recycling committee, which formed shortly after the announcement of cancelled recycling services in January, the recommendation was announced Monday.
"I believe that privatization is a great option for many municipalities, in many circumstances; however, after reviewing each proposal in great detail, I do not recommend privatization at this time in regard to the provision of trash and recycling collection services," City Manager Bill Bell wrote in his recommendation letter.
Bell went on to state that there was only a 90-cent difference between the $13.80 monthly customer charge the city proposed and the least expensive private provider, which was Mountain Rolloff Inc., of Carbondale.
That, combined with the city's history of high customer satisfaction ratings and the risk involved in switching to the "new and untried" system of private service delivery, led to the recommendation, Bell said. The $13.80 per month charge in the city's proposal is less than the current $14.40 per month charge residents currently see on their bills.
These figures, and dwindling reserves in the sanitation fund, sparked Councilor Thomas Smits to comment that he "couldn't get around not privatizing unless we have some of these controls in place."
Councilors Gail Marvel and McDermott did not vote to approve the motion, saying they thought council needed more time to discuss those directions to staff, and citing “wish list” conditions, including:
• Implementing a $13.80 monthly fee for residential trash and recycling by Jan. 1, 2013.
• Phase in by the end of 2012 single-stream recycling as part of Montrose's sanitation department.
• Draft a request for proposal for transfer station services with the cost to the city based upon cubic yards delivered and with the understanding that the station will accept all recyclables collected by the city.
• Draft a policy for City Council review establishing a 90-day reserve for all city enterprise funds.
• Draft a policy to be reviewed by council establishing a benchmark for administrative service fees charged to all enterprise funds to be no higher than 20 percent of the total revenues of the said enterprise funds.
• Draft a revised trash code for council's review based upon the RFP submitted by the city's sanitation department.
The motion was seconded by Councilor Bill Patterson, who said, "I agree that you have to have a business plan and the currently plan is not doable. There is no way to get our reserves close to what they should be and in order to do that, we need to have these limitations."
Bell's recommendation letter to council outlined possible changes that could allow the sanitation department to build reserves, offer recycling and reduce the customer fee. Those suggestions included a change to a four, 10-hour work schedule; adjusting the sanitation fund's administrative reimbursement charges to more appropriate figures, which would save approximately $70,000; sell the old recycling trailer and switch to single-stream collection for recycling so that the current city trash trucks could be used; transition to a less expensive trash truck and extended the recommended vehicle replacement schedule from five to seven years.
With less trash now being diverted to the landfill, the city may also save money spent on tipping fees, Bell said.
Smits also recommend that the city consider using local landfill, rather than hauling its trash to Naturita.
Bell said the recycling program will probably be initiated in phases next fall. The entire program should be running, with the new rate changes for customers, by Jan. 1, 2013.
The policies, including the 90-day reserve requirement and administrative service fees benchmark, should come before council in May or June, he said.
Bell's letter of recommendation can be viewed at www.cityofmontrose.org, as can the entire council work session and regular meeting.