The Prairie Village City Council on Monday agreed to dump current trash hauler Deffenbaugh Industries Inc. in favor of Republic Services in a move that will likely result in larger bills for homeowners.
Council members asked the staff to enter further negotiations with Republic to take over collection of garbage, recycling and yard waste for the city’s nearly 8,400 homes beginning Jan. 1.
Republic proposes charging residents $18.44 a month, or $3.94 more than they pay now through city assessments. Assistant City Administrator Wes Jordan told the council he felt that amount would shrink during negotiations.
“What I’m presenting tonight is worst-case scenario,” Jordan said.
Deffenbaugh actually provided the lowest bid of five companies responding to the city’s request for proposals, the first time the city has opened its nearly $1.5 million solid waste contract to competing bidders since 2002.
Deffenbaugh offered to charge $16.95 a month, or $2.50 more than residents pay now.
But Jordan recommended the council set aside the company’s bid, partly because he said Deffenbaugh asked to ignore some facets of the city’s request for proposals and because of the company’s poor customer service in the past year.
Customers in communities across the metro area have complained about Deffenbaugh drivers not making scheduled pickups, a problem the company has blamed on a shortage of qualified drivers. The company also has failed to quickly answer customer complaints, which Jordan said wind up at City Hall.
Jordan said the city has already fielded about 300 customer complaint calls so far this year with some irate callers threatening to dump their trash at City Hall or burning it in the streets.
“We are getting blasted now and we aren’t staffed to handle that,” he said.
Representatives of Deffenbaugh’s parent company, Waste Management, said the company had “turned the corner” on issues like the shortage of drivers, which they said have affected all haulers in the Kansas City area.
They also said it was unfair to hold “recent challenges” against the company and ignore Deffenbaugh’s 14-plus years serving the city.
“It seems a little biased where we’re held to the complaints that we have experienced when none of the other haulers have any complaints because they have not been servicing the community,” said public sector manager John Blessing.
He added that the company raised its concerns with the request for proposals under the assumption it would be able to work out the differences during final negotiations.
Under the new proposed agreement, the city wants to impose tough new customer service standards and financial penalties. For example, the hauler would have to make up missed trash collections within 24 hours, answer and return customer phone calls promptly and have supervisors readily available to address problems.
Excessive missed collections or other customer service problems would result in escalating fines of between $100 and $500 per address, much higher than the current fine of $30.
Hank Potts, municipal services manager for Republic, said the company has worked hard to stay on top of customer concerns in its other markets, which include Liberty, Excelsior Springs and Kearney. He added that the company planned to spend $3.5 million in new trash carts and other equipment for Prairie Village.
Asked if his company has struggled to find drivers like Deffenbaugh, he said no.
“All of our trucks are staffed and all of our routes are full,” he said. “We are planning for the future to stay ahead of it.”
Under Republic’s proposal, homeowners will receive basically the same level of service they currently receive in terms of weekly trash and recycling pickup. But the company would expand lawn waste pickup to 12 bags a month all year instead of 12 bags a month for only six months and eight bags a month for the remaining six months.
The city also plans to look at including larger, 95-gallons containers to accommodate the trash overflow from larger families, unlimited weekly lawn waste and adding glass to the curbside recycling program.
Council members expressed disappointment in the expected price increase and said that while Jordan and other staff will negotiate with Republic, the city could consider any last-minute “substantially improved” offers from the other bidders.
“The cost is sort of bitter to swallow, but if that ends up saving us 300 calls from unhappy residents and hours and hours of our staff trying to resolve these complaints it might be worth it in the long run,” Mayor Laura Wassmer said.
▪ In other business, the council voted unanimously to adopt a $32.5 million budget for the fiscal year beginning Jan. 1. The spending plan includes an additional full-time building inspector to deal with increased residential construction, a $100,000 boost to the city police pension plan, a $20,000 salary and compensation study and a 3.25 percent merit pay raise pool for city employees. Prairie Village’s property tax rate of 19.5 mills will remain the same.
David Twiddy: firstname.lastname@example.org.