Manatee County commissioners should search for the best deal in garbage hauling and not extend current contracts with the two haulers currently working the unincorporated portions of the county.
Despite county staff recommending a renewal of those deals -- and for good reason -- taxpayers should be certain that their money is well spent on the best service and price on the market. By opening up a competitive bidding process, residents will be able to judge whether that's the case.
Waste Management Inc. of Florida and Waste Pro of Florida Inc. currently share the county's service area and come highly recommended for contract renewal by county staff for outstanding service.
The estimated $140 million in solid waste collection is a high price to pay without determining if another company can provide a lower price, stronger service and just as important, more state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly equipment.
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The current agreements extend to 2016, and county commissioners unanimously agreed to proceed with a multiyear renewal of the franchise agreement with both companies -- but then called a time out to reconsider.
While both waster haulers have earned high praise for customer service and responsiveness, commissioners owe taxpayers a close examination of a seven-year contract renewal for residential and commercial pickups at a cost of $140 million.
Other solid waste haulers want the opportunity to bid. At this point, the county cannot determine the best deal without a competitive process.
Hillsborough County offers a lesson for Manatee. Our Tampa Bay neighbor put a 17-year monopoly out to bid and then saved $10 million annually with a new contract. That came with a bonus -- trucks operating on compressed natural gas that produce less air pollution.
Could Manatee County save as much money and be more environmentally friendly? Taxpayers would never know without opening the bidding to all companies. Several have already lobbied Manatee commissioners to do just that.
As one county utilities official told commissioners in July, Manatee already has some of the most competitive trash pickup rates in the state. Waste Management and Waste Pro shouldn't fear competitive bidding, then, especially with a solid track record. We recommend Manatee County commissioners open the bidding. That's the American way to conduct public business.