Despite repeated attempts to explain the validity of cancelling a county contract for professional services at a Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) work session on Jan. 12, three commissioners questioned the decision not to renew.
“The BOC needs to focus on hiring county staff,” said District 5 Commissioner Levie Maddox, adding that Hilliard General Services had been doing an excellent job of providing services to the county.
Maddox, District 1 Commissioner John Douglas and District 4 Commissioner J. C. Henderson said they believed the contract with Hilliard General Services should be renewed for a year, despite indicating earlier they were ready to move forward with activating an earlier resolution creating a solid waste authority.
District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims and District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz both said they favored entering into a month-to-month contract with the hauling service.
Sims said a citizen’s committee had made the recommendation to create a solid waste authority “and we have taken all this time to say we’re going to keep doing what we are doing,” he said. “To tie the solid waste authority to a contract [like the Hilliard contract] is wrong.”
The Citizen’s Committee on Solid Waste was created last year by the BOC, and presented its findings and recommendations for the most efficient way to handle the county’s solid waste disposal stream. (See “Solid waste report calls for county to get out of landfill business,” http://www.covnews.com/archives/60377/.)
Terms of Hilliard’s contract
Henderson said a number of times that there were two years left on the contract with Hilliard, and the contract should not be broken.
The contract, explained Attorney Megan Martin, a partner with the interim county law firm Jarrard and Davis, was written to automatically renew annually for a five year period. Under the terms of the contract, either party – the county or Hilliard General Services – could notify the other 45 days in advance of the agreement’s expiration of an intent not to renew.
The notification was sent to Hilliard by then Interim County Manager Harry Owens on Dec. 18. The Hilliard contract expires Feb. 9 and could not be renewed until a Request for Quotes (RFQ) was released, allowing all interesting firms to submit bids.
However, the BOC could approve negotiation of a month-to-month contract with Hilliard General Services, but staff could not enter into those negotiations without a vote of the BOC. Because the BOC was meeting for a work session, it could not vote to authorize the negotiations with Hilliard.
The BOC agreed that Interim County Manager should contact Hilliard to ask if they were interested in negotiating a month-to-month contract. Interim County Manager Lloyd Kerr would bring information back to the BOC at its next scheduled meeting on Thursday, Jan. 21.
If the county did not notify Hilliard General Services that the contract would not be renewed, or tried to break the contract mid-year, the county would pay a substantial penalty to the firm, “Kerr said. “If we did not give Mr. [Junior] Hilliard notice of nonrenewal when we did, then we would be required to give him 90-days notice and would be required to give him 60-days pay beyond that.
“We’re also looking out for the best interests of the county,” Kerr said. “We didn’t want to have to pay that penalty.”
Request for proposals released
The decision to not renew the contract with Hilliard came after the BOC had instructed staff in October to create a Request for Quotes and Proposals (RFQP) for the handling the county’s complete waste stream, including operation of the recycling centers and the landfill. The RFQP has been advertised and posted on the county’s web site.
“If the BOC is serious about creating a Solid Waste Authority, the RFQP would be unnecessary and would need to be recalled,” Kerr said.
The BOC did not want to recall the RFQP, he said.
Harbin Engineering, which provides professional services as engineers at the county’s landfill, was asked by staff to put together the RFPQ because they “had expertise in the field,” Kerr said. “Typically, you’re fairly defined about what you’re requesting the information and proposal for, but the Board left it pretty open. There was some discussion and we put it out.”
However, he added, the BOC hadn’t actually voted on the release of the RFQP. “The Board indicated they wanted us to go ahead with the RFQP even though they’re discussing [creating Solid Waste] Authority.
“Right now, this is all in transition,” he said. “Even if the county did move towards a solid waste authority, it would be a period of time before that solid waste authority would be formed and independent. The county would still have to subsidize an authority for a period of time until it was able to stand on its own, and that would take several months.”
Since the release of the RFQP, Kerr said, “we’ve gotten responses from several companies interested in bidding.”
A mandatory pre-bid meeting is scheduled for Jan. 21. Interested bidders must attend to meet with county staff and a representative from Harbin to review the RFQP, clarifying goals and answering questions.
Hilliard General Services had been on a contract to haul recyclables from the county’s 10 neighborhood recycling, or convenience centers since 2001. The county has not put the service out to bid during that time.
The company is not the only one providing services that cost more than $50,000 annually to the county without an up-to-date contract or working on a contract that has not been put out to bid. Maddox had requested a list of all those companies falling into those categories.
“We’re still trying to get all that information for him,” Kerr said.