Omaha, NE mayor continues work on $500M request for bids
- Omaha, NE Mayor Jean Stothert said Tuesday the city is still developing a request for bids for a 10-year waste collection contract, with the option for two five-year extensions, as reported by the Omaha World-Herald. The contract could total more than $500 million. Stothert said she wants the bids to include options for collecting yard waste separately and commingled.
- The mayor said the eventual contract may be for over $30 million each year, double what the city currently pays Waste Management, according to KETV. The city hopes to have a request for bids out by May or June and make a contract decision by the end of the year.
- The bids will ultimately go to the Omaha City Council for approval. Council President Ben Gray told the World-Herald that the council still has "a few questions and concerns," and the discussion resolves largely around the future of composting, yard waste collection and cart size.
Right now, Omaha contracts with Waste Management to the tune of $16 million each year, but that contract expires in 2020. Any new contract will include some big changes for the city, including switching to vehicles that use compressed natural gas and use automated collection systems with covered carts.
The mayor said nobody, not even Waste Management, wants to bid on contracts that don't include automated collection. This could be due, in part, to the risks associated with waste collection jobs.
Stothert's administration put out a public opinion survey in November last year, asking for resident feedback. And, while Omaha residents currently can put out up to five 32-gallon containers for solid waste, SCS Engineers said public feedback showed new, 96-gallon covered cards would "meet the needs" of most people in Omaha, according to the World-Herald.
The costs of those changes appears to be catching up to the city. Previous contract estimates said any new arrangement would cost over $100 million, but SCS Engineers, which the city paid an estimated $99,000, is now saying a contract could total over half a billion dollars over 10 years.
It is possible that the cost of collecting yard waste separately is what has driven up cost estimates, and Stothert has said the cost of yard waste collection will play a role in choosing a new contract. Omahans currently get unlimited yard waste collection, which the mayor said is "not sustainable."
Interestingly, conversations around a new contract have not focused much on recyclables. Nearby Lincoln (the state's capital) recently banned corrugated cardboard from landfills, creating some opportunity for recycling haulers in that city.
Waste Management currently picks recycling up in Omaha, but Stothert and other city officials don't appear publicly concerned with how recycling could play out in the future.
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