By Jan Worth-Nelson
The state-appointed Receivership Transition Advisory Board today gave their blessing to an agreement between Mayor Karen Weaver and the Flint City Council that promises to end, after months of wrangling and dueling trash trucks, the dispute over who will pick up the city’s garbage.
Republic Services, Flint’s trash contractor for the past three years, has been officially approved to continue.
The resolution, approved by the council Monday night after months of contentious back and forths and signed by the mayor’s purchasing manager, chief financial officer, and legal advisor, gives a one-year contract for Tri-County Refuse Service, Inc., doing business as Republic Services, beginning Nov. 12, 2016, with an option to extend another year.
The contract amount is $3.7 million for each year.
After the meeting, Weaver asserted the crux of the matter was insisting on a bidding process to get the lowest price.
“I’m happy with the results,” Weaver said minutes after the RTAB meeting, “I’m glad to get it behind us. The most important thing was that we’ve always wanted to get the lowest price. And that’s what we got. By putting it out for bid, Republic came down $2 million, Rizzo came down $2 million under that, and Republic agreed to match that cost.
“That’s the point for putting things out to bid,” she said, to get “the lowest cost for the people.”
Asked about the repeated flareups between her office and the city council and whether everyone is happy with the results and with the city council, Weaver said she was glad to have the outcome resolved peacefully, adding, “I hope they [the council members] feel the same way we do, because we’ve got so much work to do to move the city forward.”
Republic is the company the council has been fighting for and who has been providing the city’s trash services since 2013 when Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz privatized the city’s trash collection services. Rizzo Environmental Services, for whom the Mayor had been advocating, will be “off the streets” as soon as their 15-day emergency contract set up after one of the court judgements supported the mayor’s attempt to override the council, expires — “within a few days,” the mayor said.
Several nettling issues remain, such as who will pay for what seemed to residents like duplicated services in overlapping contracts, as well as pending litigation by Republic against the city for breach of contract in the back and forths of court actions, and the temporary hiring of Rizzo that was later overturned.
Nonetheless, council members and the mayor seemed settled on the outcome for now.
City council members Vicki Van Buren, Scott Kincaid and council president Kerry Nelson, who had been in the council majority supporting Republic from the beginning, were in the audience but did not speak. Councilman Eric Mays, the lone “no” vote against Republic in several actions throughout the summer and fall, criticized RTAB chairperson Frederick Headen for allowing the RTAB vote to proceed before “the end of the veto period” during which the mayor legally could have stopped the Monday council resolution.
But Headen said the fact that all the mayor’s top administrators signed off on the agreement satisfied him that she would not veto it this time.
And after the meeting, the mayor said, “No, we’re past that. No more vetoes.”
The dispute led to several rounds of challenges against the mayor by the city council, mediation enforced by Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah, and shouting matches at city hall and what some called “race-baiting” by the Concerned Pastors for Social Action against council member Kincaid who criticized the mayor in what some asserted were condescending and disrespectful terms. Kincaid charged the proposed Rizzo contract was flawed and the bidding process suspect.
After the meeting, Kincaid, the council’s finance chair, also expressed satisfaction with the hard-won resolution. He said the one-year contract with a one-year extension with Republic was in the best interests of everybody. And he and Weaver agreed on one central point, that, as he put it, “You always want to get the best price for the taxpayers of the city of Flint.”
But he also asserted he knew the embattled Rizzo proposals were problematic from the get-go.
“The reason I took on this fight,” he said, “is that I do contracts, I’ve done contracts all my life for the UAW with General Motors, I grew up at Fisher Body One, worked for Fisher One until it closed. And when I looked at that Rizzo contract I knew that that it could not be met under the conditions provided. They don’t own the landfill, and they don’t own the trucks, and it wasn’t a local company. I knew there was something wrong with this from the beginning.”
But he said for him, the story isn’t over.
Noting the federal probe leading to recent corruption charges against several Macomb County officials related to Rizzo contracts and the resignation of the head of Rizzo announced today, Kincaid said he felt vindicated in his concerns.
“Rizzo would go down and low-ball the bid and then two years later would come back and increase the cost and would come back and buy off elected officials,” he said.
He also added he is “absolutely convinced there will be indictments in the city of Flint. The onion layers are just starting to peel back.”
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.