Graham’s city council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to enter into a new three-year contract with Republic Services for recycling pickup within the city.
Voting for were: Graham mayor Jennifer Talley; and city council members Bobby Chin, Joey Parsons, and Bonnie Whitaker. Mayor pro tem Ricky Hall cast the lone vote against.
The city’s cost for the contract with Republic is structured on a graduated scale. The city’s contract with Republic includes an automatic annual 3 percent increase in the cost to keep pace with increases in fuel costs and the national consumer price index (i.e., inflation). The cost for the recycling contract will be $361,000 for the first year. The cost climbs to $379,050 in year two; and $398,002 for the third year.
The contract with Republic Services – which will continue recycling pickup on Wednesdays – also includes an option to renew for two additional one-year terms, also with 3 percent guaranteed increases.
GFL, which had been the city’s recycling contractor for at least the past 10 years, had also submitted a bid for the recycling contract that included an automatic annual 5 percent increase in the city’s cost. GFL had also structured its proposal on a graduated scale that started at $383,000 in year one and topped $422,257 by year three. That proposal also provided for two, one-year extensions, with the cost totaling $465,538 by year five.
In rejecting GFL’s proposal, Graham’s city council opted not to piggyback onto a provision in the company’s contract with Burlington that would allow other local municipalities to pay the same rates as Burlington.
The recycling contract with GFL that Burlington’s city council approved earlier this year tripled the monthly charge in that city. In Graham, the rate would’ve increased from $4 per month, per cart to $6.24, Graham public works director Burke Robertson said during an earlier discussion with the council.
Robertson said during the earlier discussion that the city’s costs for both recycling and trash pickup totals $13.64 per month, per household – substantially less than the current combined charge of $8.50 per month per household for recycling and trash pickup. About 59 percent of Graham households put out recycling, Robertson told the council.
Graham mayor Jennifer Talley repeatedly lauded GFL for having a facility in Graham and stressed that she would really prefer to award the contract to a company with a local presence.
But Talley’s attempt to jawbone with GFL, both last month during an earlier meeting with a higher-ranking company representative from New Bern as with the Graham plant manager, Seth Heath, Tuesday night were unsuccessful.
Tabulations done by councilman Bobby Chin ultimately concluded that the terms of the GFL contract would cost the city about $200,000 more over the next five years, compared to the terms of the Republic proposal.
Councilman Ricky Hall raised concerns about Republic’s service compared to GFL.
Ultimately, Talley said she and the council were being forced to give the contract to a Greensboro company, rather than one in Graham, because she and other council members could not expect to provide higher costs to the city’s taxpayers simply because the company had a Graham address.
“We expect excellent service,” she told Republic’s representative after the council awarded his company the contract.
Talley also indicated that if there were future difficulties with the quality of service, Graham reserved the right to cancel the contract and switch back to GFL.
Separately, Graham city manager Megan Garner is recommending a $2 monthly increase (or about 24 percent) in the combined monthly fees for garbage and recycling collection.
The city currently charges $4.50 per unit, per month for garbage collection and $4 per unit, per month for recycling; those fees would increase to $5.50 for garbage collection and $5 per month for recycling.
If adopted as proposed, the new fees would take effect on July 1, with the start of the 2022-23 fiscal year.
Graham city council members are scheduled next week to resume their deliberations on the budget for 2022-23. A public hearing on the proposed budget is currently scheduled for Tuesday, June 14.