by Matt Marquardt –
MASON CITY – Following a public backlash and no valid bids being submitted from private companies, the Mason City Council and Mayor Bookmeyer finally laid the sanitation controversy to rest on Tuesday, for the time being.
City Council member Scott Tornquist said at Tuesday’s work session that the idea of privatizing the city’s sanitation department is no longer “worth messing around with.”
The Mayor and Council had been focused in on the sanitation department since early this spring as part of their “managed competition” agenda. Managed competition may be defined as: “Managed competition provides a structured, transparent process that allows an open and fair comparison of public sector employees and independent contractors in their ability to deliver services to citizens.”
Council member Alex Kuhn, against the idea from the start, re-iterated his stand Tuesday.
“I’ve talked a lot about this issue, I’ve talked till I’m blue in the face about it,” he said. “I think these gentlemen (the sanitation department workers) continue to always look for efficiencies and improvements. All those affects… of bringing someone else in… there’s many, many more negative affects, in my mind.”
Council member John Lee said “I’m looking forward to putting this to an end and stopping some of these phone calls.”
The mayor and council had directed city staff to solicit RFP’s (Requests for Proposals) for its sanitation services but received no valid bids from the four companies they contacted. One company who responded with a letter, Waste Management, told City Hall that “It is clear that the Council does not have an appetite for seriously moving forward with this issue and is content with the status quo.”
The City’s sanitation department was not asked to submit a bid.
Moving forward, the process was called “healthy” and the Council seemed to agree that the issue may need to be addressed in the future, mainly due to insurance costs for employees and fuel costs that continue to escalate.
City Administrator Brent Trout said he has been in contact with the City Hall in Fort Dodge, Iowa about changes that city is making to their waste pick-up.
“There are changes that are occurring in the way sanitation is handled,” Trout explained. “They (Fort Dodge) actually made the decision they are going to that kind of a system (one driver in a truck with a mechanical arm) very soon.”