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Opa-locka scrambles to restore trash service for all residents

Opa-locka officials have been scrambling to reinstate trash service for all city residents and businesses in the wake of a dispute over the city’s choice of a trash contractor.

Progressive Waste Solutions of Florida and Waste Management had agreed to continue collecting trash after their contracts expired Sept. 30, while Progressive attempted to persuade a judge to make the city reconsider plans to replace both companies with Ecological Paper Recycling. Progressive said the city mishandled the procedures for choosing a new trash contractor.

But on Nov. 1, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel denied Progressive’s request. Progressive “made no allegations or offered any proof” of illegal or fraudulent behavior on the city’s part, Zabel wrote. She denied the firm’s request for an injunction to stop the city from going ahead with the deal.

“Progressive Waste is reviewing its options in light of the Court's recent decision,” said Robert Buschel, the company’s attorney, in an email.

After the judge ruled, both Progressive and Waste Management collected their trash bins and carts and stopped picking up garbage in the city, Assistant City Manager David Chiverton said.

“After this injunction came down it seemed like Waste Management reneged on the plan,” said Chiverton. “Both Progressive and Waste Management decided to pull their bins out, leaving the city in a challenging situation.”

But Progressive and Waste Management had agreed to continue service only until the end of October, according to the companies. Dawn McCormick, a spokeswoman for Waste Management, said the removal of the bins was standard procedure and that there was no agreement to extend coverage beyond October.

The city scrambled to replace the lost garbage bins and containers for residents and worked with Ecological to begin handling both commercial and residential collection.

By Wednesday, “95 percent” of city residents had received trash receptacles, Chiverton said, but he added that it had been an “impractical process.”

Progressive filed suit Oct. 4, after the City Commission awarded a bid to Ecological Paper Recycling to provide trash collection and disposal services.

Progressive wanted the city to award the job to Progressive or restart the bidding without Ecological. Progressive also requested lost profits, if the judge granted the injunction but the company did not end up getting the job.

Carlo Piccinonna, general manager of Opa-locka-based trash company Great Waste, also objected to the way the city hired Ecological but did not join the lawsuit. He said the city should have planned ahead for transitioning to Ecological and described the current situation as “complete and utter chaos.” He said residents and businesses in the city are still without service and containers.

“Getting the cans out there is hard, but it’s the easiest part,” Piccinonna said. “Some sort of synergy should have been created between Ecological and Waste Management. It takes coordination.”

Progressive stated in its complaint last month that the city acted in an “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable manner” when it awarded a trash collection bid to Ecological Paper Recycling.

The company believed that the City Commission violated Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law when it ranked the potential companies, on July 18 in a closed-door meeting without a public hearing. When a second evaluation took place, the scores were 85 percent identical, according to the complaint.

Judge Zabel’s ruling recognized Progressive’s contention that the city, “erred in evaluating the various proposals submitted and awarding the contracts to Ecological,” but concluded that this wasn’t enough to grant the injunction.

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