A heated issue recently caused O’Fallon Mayor Bill Hennessy to invoke a rarely used executive power – the ability to veto legislation.
The O’Fallon City Council had been discussing the issue – an contract agreement for the long-term operation, maintenance and management of the city’s transfer station – for several months. A transfer station is a processing site where vehicles temporarily deposit waste before that waste is loaded onto trucks bound for landfills, recycling facilities or incinerators. Three candidates responded to the city’s request for proposals: Waste Connections, Meridian Waste Services and Republic Services.
In early July, councilmembers approved a contract agreement with Republic, but were immediately notified by the mayor that he intended to veto the legislation approving the agreement.
On July 28, the council met again and voted 7-1 to override Hennessy’s veto, with Councilmember Mike Pheney [Ward 5] casting the lone “no” vote.
Meridian, the current incumbent operator of the transfer station, has held the contract – costing $5,190,117 over a 10-year period – since 2007. Current arrangements for the operation of the transfer station do not expire until November 2017.
Hennessy said his main objections are financial in nature.
“It’s not [that] Republic is a bad company, they’re all good companies, OK?” Hennessy asked. “It’s all about the dollars.”
The city received the proposals from the three companies on May 25, and each firm that submitted a proposal was given the opportunity to make a presentation to the council at its workshop meeting on June 9.
The contract would be for a 10-year period, and includes two optional 10-year renewals.
According to figures on the city’s website and Hennessy’s veto letter, Waste Connections, the lowest bidder, promised the city a revenue of $785,750 during the first 10 years of its contract with O’Fallon. The second and third decades would cost the city $2,055,050 and $3,495,850, respectively.
Meridian would cost the city $4,406,874 during its first 10-year period, $5,523,178 during the second decade and $6,698,243 in the third.
Republic would cost the city $5,104,690 in its first 10-year period, $10,003,233 in the second and $15,256,668 in the third.
“The council’s ill-advised rejection of the best bid, and almost as ill-advised rejection of a next best alternative, doesn’t mean that the council can or should ignore the interests of our residents and choose to make a bad deal that will haunt our city and plague our budgets for at least a decade, if not a generation,” Hennessy stated in his letter.
After the July 28 vote, Hennessy said he was disappointed with the council.
“I hope the residents of O’Fallon look at how this council voted and act accordingly,” Hennessy said.
Councilmember Dave Hinman [Ward 1] said that he and other councilmembers have done much research on the issue, and that he felt “this was the best bid to partner with the city.” Hinman added that Republic’s bid included additional services and offers that would add value to the city.
“There was a lot of additional information that dealt with assisting the city and added monetary value to the city in the bids that were excluded because someone felt that part wasn’t important,” Hinman said.
In discussing the process used in the bid selection, Hinman made a comparison between the transfer center ordinance and the city’s police station and justice center, currently under construction off Bryan Road.
“The reason this is odd to me, is that we just recently selected a construction manager for our justice center project, and we didn’t select the lowest bidder,” Hinman said. “We selected the second lowest bidder due to additional items that they were providing to the city, that they brought to the table.
“We looked a the entire package in that instance, and it’s played out well for the city so far.”