Companies protest Hialeah’s process for choosing trash hauler

Hialeah garbage trucks are parked on city property. The city plans to privatize the sanitation department.
Hialeah garbage trucks are parked on city property. The city plans to privatize the sanitation department. el Nuevo Herald

Two local companies have disputed the Hialeah City Council’s decision to disqualify them from the city’s bidding process to privatize trash collection.

Representatives of World Waste Recycling and Southern Waste Systems expressed their discontent for having been eliminated from the bid and asked the City Council last week to make a quick re-evaluation in order to remain in the process.

“The decision surprised us [...] and we’re here protesting before the council,” said Felix Lasarte, Hialeah representative for World Waste Recycling. “Council members will have the opportunity to review what has been done to us and issue a new verdict.”

Both local companies were dismissed after an evaluation on Oct. 16 by the committee in charge of choosing the company which will collect the garbage in Hialeah beginning next year as part of the privatization plan of the service driven by Mayor Carlos Hernández’s administration.

Hernández did not return El Nuevo Herald’s calls.

The companies remaining as bidders are Progressive Waste Solutions, Waste Management and Waste Pro of Florida.

Lasarte said World Waste Recycling was dismissed by only two of the five members of the selection committee. One voted against the dismissal of that company and two others were absent from the Oct. 16 session.

The selection committee includes Javier Collazo, from the Hialeah Retirement Board; Annette Quintana, interim director of the Department of Grants and Human Services; Mandy Llanes, executive director of the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Zerry Ihewaba, assistant city manager of Miami; and Thomas Good, Miramar’s director of public works. Neither Llanes nor Good attended the session.

Collazo’s argument for eliminating World Waste Recycling and Southern Waste Recycling is that the companies’ services do not exceed 20,000 homes, according to the minutes of the session.

However, Lasarte said that World Waste Recycling has been providing waste collection services in 13 municipalities in Miami Dade, besides serving unincorporated areas such as the area in West Hialeah close to the popular 49th Street.

“Dismissing us for not having enough experience is absurd,” Lasarte said. “That is why we are asking that the case be evaluated again. We’re talking about local companies with the necessary experience.”

In last week’s council session, Javier Vázquez, representative of Southern Waste Systems, made the same reconsideration request.

In the session of the selection committee, even Vazquez criticized that the committee did not show clear criteria for evaluating the companies.

“I want to be clear on record that the committee members themselves do not agree with the criteria for making decisions,” said Vázquez, according to the transcript of the session.

Armando Vidal, director of Hialeah’s Department of Public Works, and the city’s poiunt person the privatization plan, said Friday that the council could follow the selection committee’s recommendation of eliminating both local companies, or propose a new evaluation.

Vidal added that privatization is necessary to modernize a service that, according to an internal evaluation, has generated operational losses of $16.5 million from October 2004 to September 2013. The study adds that if no major changes are made, the loss by 2022 will exceed $19 million.

Hialeah’ Solid Waste Collection Department has 84 employees, of whom about 50 are temps or part-timers. In previous months Hernández has said that the company winning the bid would absorb those employees.

In December, Hialeah transferred to its Department of Public Works 35 acres worth $19 million to be rented to the company winning the bid, according to public records. The land, popularly known as “the yard,” is located at 900 E. 56th St., behind the headquarters of the Hialeah Police Department.

According to Vidal, the privatization process must be finalized by March, which he says would allow implementing a modern automated garbage collection service by 2016.

The council’s vice chairman, Luis Gonzales, said that the representatives of the two companies complaining about the bidding process will appear at Hialeah City Hall on Nov. 13 to officially present their request to be reinstated as bidders.

“We council members are now in the cone of silence and we cannot comment on this issue,” Gonzales said. “We will now focus on getting all the required information, which we will analyze to make our decision.”