County Commissioners Tuesday night voted to approve a five-year contract for lawn care without bidding for price in a repeat of a split over recycling services two months ago.
Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of offering a five-year contract to Durden’s Lawn Maintenance, which has been providing lawn service to the county since 2006. Two commissioners, Nancy Schulz and Lanier Sims, argued that the job should be put out to bid to make sure the county is paying a competitive rate.
“Purely from a business perspective, we should be really clear we’re getting the best pricing for this service,” Schulz said.
Several other commissioners said the contract should not be rebid because Durden’s has provided good service.
“I see no need to go through the process for a request for proposal,” Commissioner T. M. Ewing said. “I’ve heard no reports of anyone being unhappy.”
Schulz made a motion for the board to approve the Durden’s contract after a request for other proposals had been posted and reviewed. The board voted that down 2-3, with commissioners Ewing, J. D. Henderson and Tim Fleming voting against.
Those three commissioners voted for another motion to approve the new contract. Schulz and Sims voted against.
The contract approved Tuesday is for one year, with four options for a one-year extension after the first year. According to county administrative officer John Middleton, the cost this year was estimated at $98,116.
After each year, the county can decline to renew the contract as long as it provides Durden’s 90 days’ notice. If the county cancels with less than 90 days’ notice, it must pay Durden’s a severance fee equal to two months of service.
In November, the Board of Commissioners approved a new contract with a similar five-year structure as the contract offered to Durden’s at an estimated cost of $412,331 per year to Hilliard Services.
The county is expected to spend $820,912 on its recycling centers this year.
At that November meeting, Schulz and Sims again suggested the board bid out the contract, which has been renewed consistently since 2001, to compare prices.
Schulz said it would be prudent to bid out a contract that the county annually loses money on, and in her experience in business, contracts are generally bid out every 3 to 5 years.
Henderson said Junior Hilliard, owner of Hilliard Services, had served the county well for more than decade and had taken a 10-percent reduction in his revenues, while also absorbing a 5-percent increase in his gas costs. Hilliard’s costs were $457,200 in 2010.
The county-operated landfill makes an annual profit, expected to be $607,668 this year, but the recycling centers cost more than $1 million to operate and the sale of recyclables and scrap metal only brings in around $235,000. As a result, the overall solid waste operation is expected to lose $213,244, a deficit that must be covered by the county’s general fund, which is supported mainly by property and sales taxes.
Gabriel Khouli contributed to this report.