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Aberdeen sees refuse collection bids, will further examine options at council meeting Monday

The Aberdeen City Council was given an overview of two bids for trash collection services from two private companies as it considers whether to outsource the city’s refuse collection or expand its current in-house services.

At $1.28 million and $1.45 million per year — with room for annual growth — the two bids to take over the city’s trash service come from waste management companies GFL and MBG Enterprises respectively. No decision has been made, and the council will more closely examine the bids, and ask questions, at its next meeting on Monday. The meeting will be live-streamed.

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As an option to possibly replace the city’s strained trash services, the city council directed the department of public works to solicit bids from waste management companies and see how much it could cost to contract the service out. Three companies attended a pre-bid meeting, where city officials and representatives from the companies discussed the mammoth 80-page bid package and modified it.

Only two bids were received, but that is partially because of county regulations on the industry, Councilman Jason Kolligs said.

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“Harford County limits who can operate trash businesses in the county, and that is one of the reasons we only have two bids,” he said.

Those bids included one day a week of trash and recycling collection, along with bulk trash and yard waste collection, Public Works Director Kyle Torster said — everything the city currently offers. The services were expected to increase in cost by about 2% to 3% annually, depending on the bidder. Neither bid included costs borne by the city, like hiring a city-paid liaison to manage the collaboration between the municipality and a private company.

The city has about 4,600 stops — an increasingly heavy lift for the city’s trash collection team, which is fewer than 10 people strong. Coupled with trash trucks breaking down, their costly repairs and long hours for the small crew, Torster said months ago that a change would have to be made to keep the service viable in the future.

According to the bids, the monthly cost of servicing a stop in the city is between approximately $23 and $26, but those figures are only part of the total costs Aberdeen would pay. Mayor Patrick McGrady said all the associated costs with the city-run and private trash collection will need to be collated and more thoroughly examined to get a fair comparison between the two courses of action.

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“The challenge is that the current cost is not as easy as writing a check and getting the trash picked up,” he said. “There are a lot of different components of it that go into the total price.”

The bids are not set in stone and the bidders and city can negotiate changes to them as the council approaches a decision. The city received the bids on a line-item basis, providing the costs of each individual service, which the city can opt into or out of, McGrady said.

But the council is not committed to outsourcing the trash service; an option to expand their current team and fleet of trucks remains — one that many citizens have frequently supported at council meetings. Many city residents are satisfied with the trash service as it stands and would rather it be expanded than outsourced.

GFL services Havre de Grace, Bel Air and Harford County, among others, Torster said. MBG services Anne Arundel County and Howard County, among others.

The city previously contracted with an outside company for trash pickup, but ran into accountability issues. At Monday’s meeting, Torster explained, the service would be guaranteed by a bond the city could call upon if a waste management company fails to live up to its end of the bargain. That bond would be ensured by a third-party surety.

At the meeting, McGrady said the contracts are written such that “if they do not do what they say they are going to do … the first thing we would do is use the carrot.”

“Ultimately there are provisions for cancelling the contract if it comes to that,” he continued.

Apartments and businesses in the city do not receive its trash service, though its costs are factored into their leases and expenses. They are required to secure their own waste removal service, effectively subsidizing the city’s collection efforts without seeing any benefit themselves.

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