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Flint, MI—With less than a month before Flint’s trash contract is set to expire, the city administration is negotiating a 90-day contract extension with the current vendor.
That’s because the administration needs more time to rebid the future trash collection contract. The original bid process that was done in February and March was done incorrectly, according to the City’s charter.
The contract for Republic Services is set to expire on June 30, and the council hasn’t heard about any other bids to do the job.
Chief Financial Officer Shelbi Frayer said that is because the bid process that was done months ago, was done in private.
Normally, in accordance with the charter, bids would be received, opened publicly, and read off in a public setting. Due to the pandemic, with City Hall was closed, Frayer said the bid process occurred in a private room with only the internal purchasing staff present. Attorney Angela Wheeler said this occurred on March 9.
Frayer, who was appointed by the Mayor on Feb. 24, and approved by the council on April 14, said it was in the middle of May that she became aware that the bid process for waste collection services was not done during a public, open meeting, as required by the charter.
“It just made me nervous and uncomfortable to use those bids given the process wasn’t followed,” Frayer said.
Frayer called it “an administrative error,” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Other municipalities have used things like Zoom, or Google Meets to open up those bids publicly. Unfortunately, we didn’t establish anything like that formally to do that,” Frayer said.
She said that in order to protect the city from legal issues, it would be appropriate to redo the bidding process the right way, pending council approval of the 90-day extension.
During a special city council meeting June 7, Councilwoman Monica Galloway requested council discuss waste collection services after receiving multiple complaints from residents about delays in garbage pickups.
Councilwoman Eva Worthing said she thought it was clear that the purchasing director who recently resigned, Joyce McClane, was responsible for the incorrect bidding process.
“It is factual. I don’t need to speak with Mrs. McClane. She was in charge. It was bidded incorrectly,” Worthing said. “She resigned, and now we can move on and hopefully things will get done in the correct way.”
Councilman Eric Mays said Worthing, “couldn’t be so wrong.”
“I can assure you that Mr. Neeley knew about this before tonight … you got department heads who are scared to talk, need to get permission to talk,” Mays said.
This isn’t the first time trash contracts have come under scrutiny in Flint. In 2016, Rizzo Environmental Services was seeking a multimillion dollar bid with the city while being investigated for bribery in Macomb County. In 2017, Chuck Rizzo, the owner of the company, pleaded guilty.
Frayer said she did not believe the current bid situation in Flint was anyone’s fault.
“We’re learning as we go here, we’re in uncharted water here, and unusual times here with the pandemic,” she said. “So I think it was just an oversight on our part, and we’re doing what we can now to correct that.”