A York City councilman wants to cut the cash-strapped city's $1.2 million annual trash-disposal budget by diverting more waste to recycling processors instead of landfills.
Michael Helfrich said he voted last week to reject a four-year trash-hauling contract that had been vetted and recommended by city administrators because he is in favor of expanding the city's list of acceptable recyclable items.
"First you have to make sure that the contract includes a broader scope of items," Helfrich said. "And then it's our job to educate the public to get that stuff out of the waste stream."
Helfrich raised questions publicly at a council committee meeting a couple of weeks before the contract appeared on the council's legislative agenda Nov. 7. Helfrich said that's when he realized the city's recycling service might remain the same if the contract were approved as written.
So he voted to reject the contract in hopes of triggering an amendment to the city's bid specifications to reflect an expanded list of recyclables.
"This seemed to be my only option to have a second shot at it," he said. "This is a fiscal issue. This is taxpayer dollars potentially being spent on something that we don't need to spend it on."
Helfrich said he doesn't care which company ultimately gets the trash-hauling contract. He prefers "whoever provides the best services at the cheapest price."
The bids: York Waste emerged earlier this year as the low bidder in a field of three companies vying for the contract. York Waste bid about $1.47 million for annual trash collection.
Coming in second was Penn Waste -- the city's current trash hauler -- which bid about $92,000 more than York Waste per year.
The council's rejection of the York Waste bid followed a critical presentation from Scott Wagner, president of Penn Waste. Wagner alleged the city had improperly corresponded
with representatives of York Waste before the bidding process had concluded and urged the city to eliminate a fuel-reimbursement formula from its bid specifications.
Jim Gross, the city's public works director, has said he disagrees with Wagner's claim.
On Wednesday, Gross said the city administration will return to the council to again recommend approval of a contract with York Waste. Gross said he has met with council members since the Nov. 7 meeting to answer questions.
Don Isabella, York Waste's area municipal services manager, said Tuesday the company is "just kind of in a holding pattern," waiting for word from the city about what happens next.
"They did their due diligence," Isabella said. "They found out that we are a responsive and responsible bidder. There really shouldn't be any more to it."
Acceptable items: As for Helfrich's questions about recycling services, Isabella said, "The answer lies in their contract."
"Although it does give a defined list of recyclable items ... it also says that items can be added or removed from the recycling program upon mutual agreement between the city and the contractor," he said.
York Waste takes recyclables to a "state of the art" facility that "accepts and processes as many materials that are out there that there's practical markets for," Isabella said.
Wagner said Penn Waste is already collecting more recyclables than what appear on the city's official list. For example, he said, the company will recycle cat-litter buckets and some children's toys.
Penn Waste sells the plastic materials to another company that uses them to build highway guard rails, Wagner said.
Helfrich said he wants to make sure the city at least maintains the level of recycling services it currently enjoys.
Time to consider: Helfrich was joined last week in his "no" vote by councilmen Henry Nixon and David Satterlee, both of whom have said they were primarily concerned with getting answers to Helfrich's outstanding questions.
Satterlee said recently that he has no concerns about the York Waste bid but, in light of the issues raised at the meeting, he wanted to give the council a few more weeks to consider the situation.
Nixon said he was not influenced by Wagner's presentation but that he, like Helfrich, wants to know if the city can expand its recycling program with an amended trash-hauling contract.
Adding items to city recycling bins would save money and be better for the environment, Nixon said.
"I don't think that we received satisfactory answers," he said.
-- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Acceptable for recycling in York City
Trash and recyclables in York City are collected by Penn Waste, one of several companies vying for a new four-year contract. Some members of the York City Council would like to see an expanded list of acceptable items for recycling. But the city's official bid document includes the same list of items that are currently collected. That list follows.
---newspapers and inserts
---magazines and phone books
---catalogs and junk mail
---office and tablet paper
---paper towels and toilet paper rolls
---empty food, tissue, cereal and shoe boxes
---empty and clean pizza boxes
PLASTIC BOTTLES AND JARS
---soda, food, detergent, grooming and toiletry bottles
---milk, juice and water jugs
---bottles numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7
---peanut butter and mayonnaise jars
---clear, green and brown food and beverage containers
---metal beverage cans
---metal food cans
---empty aerosol cans
The list specifically exempts:
---paper or boxes soiled with food
---motor oil and chemical containers
---dessert cups or butter bowls
---aluminum foil and foil pans
---siding or scrap metal