Recycling and Disposal Solutions (RDS) of Virginia has shown a willingness to be flexible with the proposed contract it presented to the Town for disposing of its curbside recycling and has offered better terms, Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett reported at the Town Council’s meeting last week.
Mr. Haskett said that he spoke with the president of RDS—whom he did not name—on April 24, and that the president indicated he could offer a contract for a term of one or two years, with an option to renew for five years, rather than insist on a five-year term.
Several Council members, including most vocally Councilman Jim Conners, objected to the five-year term offered in the draft contract.
Joe Benedetto, III, who is president of RDS, according to an online search, also offered a very generous truckload-contamination “threshold” of 18 percent, which is considerably better than the 12 percent threshold in the draft contract.
To protect itself against contamination, which is a serious and costly marketing problem for processors of single-stream recycling, RDS has provided that it would charge the Town for the removal and disposal of all contaminated materials in excess of a 12 percent threshold. Before it removes any of these materials, however, it would give the Town 24 hours to remove them itself and save the additional cost.
As The Beacon previously reported, a recycling specialist with the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality informed us that 14 to 15 percent is an average contamination threshold, and 12 percent is low. Eighteen percent is very attractive.
As a result of Mr. Benedetto’s new proposed terms and further discussion, the Town Council voted unanimously to task Mr. Haskett and Town Attorney Ben Gallop with negotiating with RDS to arrive at a contract that meets the Town’s needs and concerns—if possible. The expectation is that this “option” would be presented to the Council at its June 1 meeting.
A LOOK AT TERMS, COSTS, AND STANDARDS
The Beacon believes RDS, which has offered a reasonably priced fixed-rate contract, presents the Town with the best option it will get to bring true recycling back to Southern Shores. Currently, collector Bay Disposal & Recyling, of Powells Point, is hauling the Town’s curbside recycling to an incinerator owned by Wheelabrator in Portsmouth, Va.
Burning is not recycling, although The Beacon did learn from the N.C. DEQ specialist after the April 21 Town budget workshop—when the Council first considered RDS’s draft contract—that Wheelabrator is recycling all metal materials. If it were not, it would be illegal under N.C. law for Bay Disposal to transport the recyclables there.
Mr. Haskett reported at the May 5 meeting that he had heard from a “representative” of Tidewater Fibre Corp., which owns the Chesapeake materials recovery facility (MRF) that Bay Disposal previously used for disposal of Southern Shores’ curbside recycling. This representative told him that TFC would be willing to resume MRF processing at a rate of $95 per ton, excluding collection and delivery.
TFC stopped accepting Bay Disposal’s Outer Banks loads last December because of a high level of contamination. The Beacon has reported extensively about this problem.
RDS’s proposed rates are much more affordable than TFC’s $95/ton. They include:
- $57.50 per ton of single-stream recyclables, including glass
- $49.00 per ton of single-stream recyclables, without glass
(For more about glass, see the next section, below.)
Bay Disposal has said that it would charge the Town $23.80 per ton of curbside recycling for its pickup and delivery to RDS’s MRF.
The calculated annual cost of contracting with Bay Disposal to continue hauling curbside recycling to Wheelabrator for incineration is $189,500, which is the recycling expense in the proposed FY 2020-21 budget.
The annual cost of contracting with Bay Disposal to pick up and haul curbside recycling to RDS’s facility, according to Mr. Haskett, is $195,201, if glass is included; and $190,467, if glass is excluded. Per home, this would be $6.80 and $6.63, respectively, he said.
We were frustrated when the Town Council, with the exception of Town Councilman Matt Neal, who clearly knows how to read and negotiate contracts, did not appreciate the RDS opportunity and take action to make it happen. We thought it showed a consensus lack of foresight, enthusiasm, and commitment to publicly funded recycling, and we said so. We were fortunate that Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey intervened to save the RDS contract from rejection.
(On a personal note: Mr. Neal’s conversation last week with Mr. Gallop about defaults and termination was fun for me to hear. Mr. Neal has a creative mind. When I practiced law, I specialized in contracts.)
The Beacon surmised that the Roanoke, Va.-based RDS, a new player on the Outer Banks, would be eager to work a compromise deal with Southern Shores and other beach towns, and we were correct. Our contact with N.C. DEQ said the same.
Said Mayor Tom Bennett about the company at last week’s meeting: “They’ve shown some flexibility and willingness to negotiate. I think . . . this company is really anxious to establish themselves and get rolling, and they want to extend their operations, so I think they’re willing to work with us. I get that feeling.”
We also were frustrated by what we perceived as a failure to start the negotiating process earlier than the date of the budget workshop and by the absence of Mr. Gallop in the process.
Proposed contracts are merely offers. Counteroffers and negotiation are to be expected in both private and public contractual business. To negotiate, you have to know with whom you are negotiating, and you cannot be the least bit intimidated by what some people call “legalese.”
We believe that town managers, interim or otherwise, should know how to read and vet a contract; identify the terms that are questionable or objectionable, from the Town’s point of view; and initiate contact/a relationship with the service provider who has proposed the contract.
We would have liked to have seen Mr. Haskett present RDS’s proposed contract with his own analysis, based on groundwork. We believe negotiating contracts is a key function served by a town manager.
Are our standards and/or expectations too high for Town government? Perhaps.
According to Mr. Gallop, he saw RDS’s proposed contract for the first time the day before the Council’s meeting. (We were wondering whether he had been consulted.) But he had no trouble doing a fast skim of the contract during the meeting and gleaning the gist of terms that troubled some Council members.
The proposed contract is lengthy, but the key terms, including the additional cost to the Town for the removal of rejected and/or contaminated recycling, are easy for people used to reading contracts to discern. Mr. Gallop quickly zeroed in on other issues that he would bring up in a negotiation with RDS.
As the Town Attorney said quite precisely: In a contract, “you’re putting different risks on one side or another. . . . Those risks have value.” What risks is the Town willing to accept?
Mr. Gallop brought much-needed clarity and direction to the Council’s discussion last week. We wish he had intervened earlier and saved some time.
WHAT MR. HASKETT OMITTED ABOUT RECYCLING GLASS AND EDUCATING THE PUBLIC ABOUT CONTAMINATION
On March 5, The Beacon met with Dare County Public Works Director Shanna Fullmer, Dare County Manager Bobby Outten, and Dare Solid Waste Superintendent Doug Huff, at the county’s public works facility in Manteo to interview all three about Dare’s recycling operation and to see a demonstration of its glass crusher.
According to Mr. Huff, Dare’s glass crusher handled 500 tons of glass in 2018, reducing bottles and jars to piles of fine sand and a pebble mulch that are free to the public.
Dare is the only county in North Carolina that has its own mechanized glass pulverizer—thanks to the influence of former N.C. Senate President Marc Basnight. (See The Beacon’s report on 3/12/20.)
The March meeting was at the invitation of Ms. Fullmer, who also invited Mr. Haskett and Southern Shores Public Works Director David Bradley to join us. We could bring whom we chose, so we invited Rod McCaughey, president of the Southern Shores Civic Assn., whose membership is keenly interested in continuing recycling–pursuing grass-roots solutions, if necessary.
Mr. McCaughey has publicly expressed the SSCA’s commitment “to do everything possible to work with local government entities on responsible recycling efforts.”
Before the meeting in Manteo, Mr. McCaughey met with both Mr. Haskett and Mayor Bennett–after Mr. Haskett invited the Mayor to a second meeting–to offer the SSCA’s assistance with addressing the recycling problems the Town was experiencing. He specifically brought up the possibility of glass-disposal bins being located on SSCA property. The SSCA owns and manages extensive open spaces in Southern Shores.
Mr. McCaughey was rebuffed by both the Interim Town Manager and the Mayor, neither of whom individually runs Southern Shores’ council-manager form of government.
After viewing a demonstration of the glass crusher, all meeting invitees retired to a conference room to talk further. Mr. McCaughey and The Beacon specifically asked Ms. Fullmer about how Southern Shores, possibly with the SSCA’s support, could arrange to have the Town’s glass recyclables disposed at a collection site and picked up by the county for crushing in its pulverizer.
Ms. Fullmer said the County could sell the Town a glass-collection bin for $20,000 and pick up the glass materials deposited there for transport to Manteo, free of charge. The Beacon later discussed with Mr. McCaughey the possibility of soliciting a business contribution to pay for the cost of one or more bins. A grant from N.C. DEQ is also a possibility.
Mr. Haskett heard every word of this exchange and has never mentioned this meeting in public until last week, when, as an afterthought, he alluded to Ms. Fullmer’s offer to sell the Town a bin, without mentioning the SSCA’s interest and possible participation.
Mr. McCaughey openly talked at the Manteo meeting about locating the bin(s) on the Hillcrest Beach parking lot, the SSCA tennis court parking lot, and/or other SSCA-owned properties, but Mr. Haskett failed to mention this brainstorming to the Town Council.
He also omitted the cost for a bin and put a negative spin on the idea. Mr. McCaughey had previously heard this same spin in a meeting he had with Mr. Haskett and the Mayor.
“We don’t have anywhere to put [a bin],” Mr. Haskett told the Council. “We would have to find somewhere to put it. It would have to be a fenced-in area. It would have to be paved, most likely. Someone would have to be there to attend to it.”
Who says? Who says the Town doesn’t have a place to install a bin or multiple bins? The SSCA’s president has offered its properties. What about the Town property behind the Pitts Center: How is it being used now?
Who says a bin needs to be fenced in, paved, attended? And why did Mr. Haskett fail to mention the possible involvement of the SSCA? The Chicahauk Property Owners Association also might be interested in participating.
I personally was shocked to hear our Interim Town Manager throw up all of these obstacles, knowing that he had attended the March 5 meeting. I was even more shocked when he responded to Town Councilman Leo Holland’s question, “Would we have to pay for [the crushing?]” that “I don’t think so.”
Of course not. Unequivocally no. This is a Dare County service. That Mr. Haskett would not know such a basic fact is troubling to us.
Are we being “mean-spirited”—Mr. Conners’s word—in pointing this out? Or are we merely fully disclosing facts that the Mr. Haskett did not disclose and offering fair criticism?
We were very dissatisfied with the discussion that the Town Council had about glass recyclables. Everyone, including the usually razor-sharp Mr. Neal, missed the point that the more glass that locals—forget about the seasonal vacationers—take out of the single-stream recycling picked up by Bay Disposal, the less the Town will spend on RDS’s processing fees. Glass is heavy, and RDS charges by weight.
The operative question is: Can the Town save money by setting up glass-collection bins on property somewhere in the Town limits? We believe it can. We believe it could get a donation or a grant to cover the cost, and that is where the focus should be, not on having someone attend to the bin(s) or fencing in an area.
Glass-recycling bins are stand-alone in multiple sites in the Washington, D.C. area and elsewhere in this country. They are familiar sights. The fear that a bin might be filled with trash, instead of glass, is not one that besets us. Also, Dare County’s mechanized glass pulverizer sorts out the glass from other materials that it does not crush.
Mr. Haskett further failed to share with the Town Council the literature and information that Ms. Fullmer gave us about the County’s campaign to educate the public about recycling do’s and don’ts, in an effort to reduce contamination.
Councilman Neal brought up at the meeting the need for an public-educational campaign in Southern Shores. This work has already been done by the County. Ms. Fullmer would be happy to provide literature to our town. We do not recall seeing stickers to put on recycling receptacles, as Mr. Neal suggested, but we would be very surprised if the County has not already manufactured them.
The Town does not need to reinvent this wheel. It just needs to reach out beyond the town limits. There may be grant money available for this effort, too.
As usual, we wrote more than we expected to write, so we will post again tomorrow or Tuesday with more news from the Town Council’s May 5 regular meeting.
Kudos to Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey for wearing a cloth face covering to the meeting. Others may have done the same, but she was the only one visibly wearing one at the beginning of the meeting videotape, which you may view here:
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/10/20