Paradise Valley in turmoil over proposed single-hauler trash contract

A view from the overflow room at Town Hall Thursday, Jan. 25 as Paradise Valley residents came out in full force to express opinions on the prospect of a single-hauler trash contract in town. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

The prospect of approving a single-hauler contract in the Town of Paradise Valley appears to be at an impasse following an impassioned public hearing Thursday, Jan. 25 that left many in attendance scratching their heads.

Paradise Valley Town Council voted against the current single-hauler contract with Republic Services by a 4 to 3 measure, citing the poor merits of the negotiated contract.

Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins and council members David Sherf and Julie Pace voted for a contract they all agreed could be better meanwhile Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner along with members Paul Dembow, Scott Moore and Mark Stanton voted against the measure.

Councilman Stanton offered a motion after the fact, which passed by a 4 to 3 vote, that will allow town staff to continue negotiations with Republic Services after new information came to light regarding the tenets of other single-hauler contracts with more favorable terms.

It was standing-room only last night at Paradise Valley Town Hall as residents, proponents and detractors debated the merits of a single-hauler contract before town council. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Furthermore, each applicant to the town-issued request for proposals may still be in play if more favorable terms are not negotiated with Republic Services, town officials admit.

The No. 2 respondent to the original RFP, Jeremy Takas of Right Away Disposal, contends his company didn’t necessarily get a fair shake during the internal evaluation process.

Republic Services emerged as the preferred vendor for the service with some officials there steadfast in the assertion Right Away Disposal’s proposal just got beat.

But on price, Right Away Disposal offered the cheapest option, elected leaders admit.
Paradise Valley Town Council is holding a study session discussion Thursday, Feb. 8 at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

Facts, opinions and ethical innuendo erupted at Town Hall during the Jan. 25 public hearing as hired hands, residents, former residents and previously elected leaders came to the local governing board to voice their opinions.

Paradise Valley Town Council last month discussed the parameters of negotiated terms for a seven-year, single-trash-hauler contract won by Republic Services. The action followed a bid process evaluated by a five-person panel at Town Hall, which at it turns out, only included one town resident.

The Town of Paradise Valley historically has a free-market system offering residents the ability to choose their own trash hauler.

Proponents of the single-hauler contract say fewer trash trucks will save moeny as streets will last longer, the environment will be better for it and the neighborhood nuisance of multiple trash trucks will be a thing of the past.

Trash outfits presently providing service in the Town of Paradise Valley include Area Disposal, Right Away Disposal, Republic Services, Scott Waste Services and Waste Management.

Every few years the idea of how trash is collected and carried away from the Town of Paradise Valley permeates through the minds of elected leaders. The latest discussion began with an April 2016 Community Conversation.

In October the town changed an ordinance, which precipitated the issuance of a formal bid for one company to take over the municipal rubbish needs.

This graphic illustrates a side-by-side comparison of a single-hauler contract in Fountain Hills to what is being offered in the Town of Paradise Valley. (Submitted graphic)

The great debate

For nearly two hours Paradise Valley residents, former residents and elected leaders along with public relations professionals hired on behalf of Republic Services delivered the ins and outs of the proposed contract.

A key point of the conversation revolved around where the issue came from, who is paying for the onslaught of PR materials hitting local homes and appearing in the Town of Paradise Valley Independent and a challenge to a local telephone poll that shows a favorable perception of the single-hauler contract.

A proposal to allow one Paradise Valley trash collection license — otherwise known locally as the single-hauler proposal — is supported by 59 percent of town residents according to a new survey from Public Opinion Strategies.

The poll was commissioned by Rose, Moser and Allyn Public and Online Relations. The Scottsdale-based public relations firm has been hired by Republic Services.

The survey of 206 registered voters was conducted Jan. 15-17 seeking public opinion on a plan to reduce trash truck traffic in Paradise Valley by switching to a single-hauler system.

Jerry Bien-Willner

But Vice Mayor Bien-Willner says he isn’t buying it as he pointed to a town-commissioned effort through the National Research Center where the town recently was the winner of a Voice of the People Award for Excellence of Livability.

Turns out, the question of trash collection was included in the townwide survey, Vice Mayor Bien-Willner points out.

“This town has character and part of that character is the spirit of choice,” Vice Mayor Bien-Willner said following hours of testimony.

“We started in 2016. We limited the collection days because that was a complaint we heard. We required new trucks and we made changes and we made minor changes. I have had concerns from the onset because we didn’t have enough data.”

In the National Citizen Survey, which was conducted in October 2016, nearly 80 percent of town residents classified their garbage collection service as excellent.

Vice Mayor Bien-Willner points out only a small percentage of town residents who participated in the survey considered their trash service as “middle of the road,” but not bad.

In an October 2017 press release sent to the Independent, town officials said residents gave positive ratings to garbage collection, recycling, natural areas preservation and open space — noting more than 90 percent of residents rated the overall natural environment in Paradise Valley as “excellent or good.”

Furthermore, the National Citizen Survey had a response from 523 residents and the topic of garbage collection had 482 written respondents, where 78 percent of those respondents classified the current garbage system as excellent.

“There is an argument for single-hauler, but there is only anecdotal evidence,” Vice Mayor Bien-Willner said of assertions of safety concerns and wear and tear on local roads and streets. “Sometimes we have hard decisions to make, internal and external consequences and we need to face them. We are all part of the same community. It would affect every resident in town and it needs to be taken very cautiously. People feel passionate about this.”

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Julie Pace says her main priority is safety. She is an Occupational Health and Safety Administration lawyer by trade.

Julie Pace

Ms. Pace says her neighbor was struck by a trash truck, but Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert says no police report was filed. Councilman Scott Moore discovered less than 1 percent of all accidents over a five-year period were the result of a trash truck.

“She was injured and her Mercedes totaled,” Councilwoman Pace said during the public hearing. “I think a lot of people have accidents in this community and we don’t always report them. It really did happen — there was just one and hopefully there aren’t any others.”

Councilwoman Pace says everyone came to this discussion with “the right spirit.”

“Safety is my priority — it is a big issue,” she said kicking off a 20-minute soliloquy to explain her merits of support for the single-hauler contract.

Ms. Pace says she is looking to ensure a safe environment and trash collection service for all residents, that, at times, she takes into her own hands.

“I stop them just like Tiananmen Square,” she said of times where she has gotten in the middle of the road to corral overzealous trash-truck drivers from moving too swiftly through local neighborhoods. “I get right in the street and take a picture and I ask them to slow down.”

Varying level of support

Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins says “I support single-hauler,” but offered lukewarm support for the current proposed contract, which was signed by Republic Services prior to the Jan. 25 public hearing.

Michael Collins

“Is this the best? I don’t know?” he asked. “It’s five bucks over five years, I don’t think that’s a big deal. This is a value question and there is no absolute right or wrong answer.”

Paradise Valley Councilman Paul Dembow has a different perspective and contends there are more pressing matters in front of elected leaders than the prospect of a single-hauler contract for trash and recycling services.

“What may sound like a good idea today for our residents may not be the case later,” he said noting the 3.5 percent increases set in stone in the proposed contract.

“I would be addressing cell service before I would be dealing with this issue. We didn’t go with the lowest cost option. We should take the time and make sure it is addressed correctly.”

Paradise Valley Councilman Scott Moore echoed a similar sentiment.

Scott Moore

“I have never seen a pothole or any critical failure of any roads in my neighborhood and I have been there for years,” he said of the anecdotal argument wear-and-tear of streets is exacerbated by local trash trucks.

“I think it’s a slippery slope — I don’t think we have seen the best deal we could have gotten.”

Built into the contract are 3.5 percent cost increases every year for the life of the contract. The price point would begin at $17.84 for basic service — one trash pick-up and one recycle pick-up — and $27.84 for standard service — two trash pick-ups and one recycling pick-up.

According to tenets of the contract, specialized service options will be provided with various different price points.

(File photo)

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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