How has one company held on to a lucrative sanitation contract since 2005?

    It has been 12 years since the city-parish last put its multimillion dollar contract for garbage and recycling collection out for bid. But at its Oct. 25 meeting, the Metro Council voted unanimously to again renew its contract with Republic Services, worth at least $6 million a year.

    Though the sanitation contract is considered a service that does not need to be publicly bid, according to the Parish Attorney’s Office, some have suggested that after more than a decade it might be time to write new bid specs and open up the process to competition.

    But both the Council, which seldom agrees on anything, and Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s administration believe renewing Republic’s contract for an additional five years is a good deal for the city-parish.

    “This was negotiated to try to make sure we got the best deal for the residents and the best services,” Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel says.

    Metro Council member Buddy Amoroso agrees, saying, “For the citizens of Baton Rouge it was a good deal and it has locked in lower prices.”

    The prices aren’t actually lower, but administration officials say they are competitive. Garbage collection rates will remain the same at $13.45 through Feb. 2019 before increasing at an annual rate of 2.5% until the contract expires in March 2023.

    Rates for household recycling pickup, meanwhile, will increase beginning in March from $2.09 to $3.09 and continue to increase at a rate of 2% a year through the life of the contract.

    Still, those rates are in line with other municipalities, says Gissel, pointing to a report by the consulting firm Gershman Brickner and Bratton, which specializes in solid waste management and engaged with the city in a strategic planning process on the subject earlier this year. Gissel says the consultants compared similar cities and looked at how their solid waste contracts are structured and determined Republic is doing a good job.

    “This was really the best option,” he says. “The thought was we need to maintain consistent service at the best rates possible.”

    Republic was first awarded a 10-year contract through a competitive bid process in 2005. In 2015, Mayor Kip Holden’s administration tried to renew the contract for another 10 years, but was met by resistance from some Metro Council members, who thought the contract should be publicly bid.

    In the end, the city entered into a new 28-month contract with Republic, which expires in February. The new five-year contract, approved at last week’s council meeting, goes into effect in March.

    Amoroso says it may make sense to revisit the issue of rebidding the contract prior to the current deal expiring in 2023.

    “But let’s not wait until five years from now,” he says. “Writing the bid specs is complicated. Let’s start three years from now.”

    —Stephanie Riegel

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