Friday, May 24, 2024

Trash talks, Dana Little leaves & other news of note

Trash put out, Cooper takes it on

Delray Beach spent nearly seven hours trash-talking last week. When it was over, several important things had happened.

The headline is that the city commission picked Southern Waste Systems to be Delray’s garbage hauler for the next seven years—at a considerable saving—pending successful negotiation of a contract. Mayor Cary Glickstein and commissioners Jordana Jarjura and Shelly Petrolia voted for Southern Waste Systems. Adam Frankel voted for Waste Management. Since 2001, Waste Management and a company it bought had been servicing Delray Beach. During those 14 years, the city never had awarded the contract through competitive bidding.

That changed last year. Waste Management had resisted the shift. When Delray Beach went to court—against itself, in essence—to overturn the decision of a previous commission in 2012 to extend the contract another time without bidding, Waste Management challenged the city, and lost badly. A company lobbyist had claimed that Waste Management was giving the city such a good deal that bidding only would result in a higher price.

Instead, residents and business owners will save nearly 10 percent annually with Southern Waste Systems. This would not have happened if the commission had stuck with the decision of an appointed selection committee to rank Waste Management first, despite the price difference.

Dominating the committee, though, were city staff members. They are familiar with Waste Management, so it’s not surprising that they would resist change. Moreover, the company’s service has been good, and Waste Management also has been a good corporate citizen, helping some of Delray Beach’s non-profits.

Indeed, the easy call would have been to stick with Waste Management. But if Waste Management has been good for Delray Beach, the question also arose of whether Delray Beach has been too good for Waste Management. Mayor Cary Glickstein noted during Wednesday’s long discussion that documents from the lawsuit showed that the company’s profit from the Delray Beach contract was the highest of its contracts in Palm Beach County.

Another important thing happened when the commission neared a vote. It was still unclear which way the commission would go. Any disruptions or problems from changing haulers would mean hassles for the city staff, starting with the manager. Don Cooper has been on the job for a month. Any new contractor would take over on June 1. The easy thing for Cooper would have been to recommend keeping Waste Management.

Instead, when asked for his thoughts, Cooper said that when deciding between bidders, his experience has been that if the price difference is less than 5 percent, the change isn’t worth it. In this case, however, the difference was nearly double that amount. Cooper didn’t recommend Southern Waste Systems, but he basically told his bosses that the savings could justify the switch. He also was saying that he and the staff could deal with any problems.

Someone new to being a city manager and new to Delray Beach might have said otherwise. Cooper, though, has been a manager for about 30 years. He went through a change of haulers while running Port St. Lucie. He noted that Southern Waste Systems has a “different business model” than Waste Management, and he questioned some of the company’s “business premises.” He could have ducked the issue. But he didn’t.

All those who finally supported Southern Waste Systems had praised Waste Management’s service – making garbage “magically disappear,” as Glickstein put it. The contract was Waste Management’s to lose, and Waste Management lost it. Asked about past problems with billing, a company official blamed it on “bad data from the city.” Any problems happened “many years ago.” She talked about improvements in the company’s offer from 2012 – improvements that the company proposed only because of the bid process Waste Management opposed.

Thus, another important thing was what the decision represented. “It shows that Delray Beach isn’t just going to do things the way we’ve been doing them,” Petrolia said. In 2012, the city attorney and city manager at the time had told the commission that no bidding was necessary.

On Friday, Glickstein told me, “If you aren’t going to pay attention to price, why have the bidding in the first place?” He hopes that a contract can come before the commission for approval by the first meeting in March, though he acknowledged the difficulty of working out a deal that quickly.

Another issue will be whether Waste Management files a bid protest. One reason Glickstein and Jarjura may have prolonged the discussion—going so deep into technical issues—is that they are lawyers. Even though the commission overruled the selection committee, however, all the bidders got tough questions.

One last observation: Frankel has been the outlier on most big issues for the last year. He was again on the trash contract. That was no surprise. He voted for Waste Management in 2012 and against the challenge of the contract. Frankel called the bid process “so messed up.” Taking a shot at his colleagues, the term-limited Frankel, who leaves office next month said, “I’m so glad to be done.” Judging by the reactions of those colleagues, the feeling is mutual.

The other important thing that happened Wednesday was that Commissioner Al Jacquet didn’t show. By missing the vote on the trash contract, Jacquet in the last three months has been absent for the two biggest decisions the commission has made, the first being the choice of a city manager. Over the last year, since being reelected, Jacquet’s attendance record is by far the worst of any commissioner.

Jacquet is a lawyer, but the mayor and the other commissioners also are working professionals. As one reader of this blog pointed out, more work gets done without Jacquet than with him. Still, by accepting his commission salary he’s taking money under false pretenses.

Little big loss

Delray Beach Planning and Zoning Director Dana Little will announce at a city commission workshop on Tuesday that he is resigning at the end of the month. Little came to the city last year from the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, where he had helped Delray Beach revise its downtown building rules. Last Tuesday, the commission gave preliminary approval to those rules. Little told me Saturday that he and wife, who also works at the planning council, have children ages 11 and 9 and that “both of us working 60-hour weeks just wasn’t working for us right now.” If the commission gives final approval to the Land Development Regulations for the Central Business District, Little’s time with Delray Beach will have been very good for the city.

The Delray race

Delray Beach will have a third contested race on March 10.

Former Mayor Tom Carney has filed to challenge Mayor Cary Glickstein. It will be a rematch from 2013, when Glickstein defeated Carney 52 percent to 48 percent.

Eeeee-uuuu e-cigarettes

Boca Raton soon may be as cool to e-cigarettes as Delray Beach.

On today’s city council agenda, at the request of Constance Scott, is a proposed ordinance that would regulate the vapor-producing cigarettes like the ones that produce smoke. Delray Beach just voted to cover e-cigarettes under the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act. Many e-cigarette retailers have set up in Boca. The American Heart Association believes that the vapor exposes people to nicotine and other toxins.

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You can email Randy Schultz at randy@bocamag.com

For more City Watch blogs, click here.About the Author

Randy Schultz was born in Hartford, Conn., and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1974. He has lived in South Florida since then, and in Boca Raton since 1985. Schultz spent nearly 40 years in daily journalism at the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post, most recently as editorial page editor at the Post. His wife, Shelley, is director of The Learning Network at Pine Crest School. His son, an attorney, and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren also live in Boca Raton. His daughter is a veterinarian who lives in Baltimore.

Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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