Choosing reliability and a well-established relationship over putting out a request for bids (RFP), the Forest Park Village Council voted to extend its decades-long association with Republic Services, a subsidiary of Allied Waste. 

According to Village Administrator Tim Gillian, the village spends between $800,000 and $900,000 annually on trash services, including solid waste, recycling and yard waste, and is calculated on a per-unit basis. For example, the 2020 rates will be $7.41/month for solid-waste pickup and disposal for residences up to four units. 

The 4-1 vote by Mayor Rory Hoskins and the village commissioners on Dec. 16 came after a long discussion and debate about the pros and cons of extending the contract for three years, at a 3 percent increase. Commissioner Dan Novak voted against the contract extension to Allied Waste, which is responsible for Forest Park’s municipal waste, recycling and landscape waste collection. Hoskins and commissioners Joe Byrnes, Ryan Nero and Jessica Voogd voted in favor of amending the contract to extend it for three additional years.

The debate centered on which was a better option: putting out an RFP, which is potentially more transparent and provides the chance of better financial offers, or continuing with a company with which the village has developed a long relationship.

The commissioners had reviewed a report from Gillian, in which he presented information about what nearby communities were paying for similar services.

“I gathered information from 11 other communities and determined that, hands down, even with the 3 percent increase [the services we receive] are still significantly cheaper than those in other communities,” Gillian said. “It seems that going out for bid would show us one thing: we’ve got a really good price right now, and we’re going to pay more if we go out for bid.”

Republic Services, Gillian added, would probably bid on the project, but they’d come in higher than the 3 percent increase they’re currently offering the village. “They’re going to try to get a lot closer to where these other communities are,” he said. 

Going out for bid, he said, would be a gamble. “And it’s not a 50-50 bet that we’ll get a lower price. It’s probably 75-25 that the price will be higher [than the 3 percent increase].”

He added that Republic Services gets the trash, recycling and yard waste collected in one day, which might not be the case with another service, and has always been known for picking up almost anything residents leave out on trash day, which isn’t guaranteed with another company. But he said it was, obviously, the council’s decision.

“At the end of the day, if you guys tell me to send it out for bid, I’ll send it out for bid. I’m not convinced you’ll like the outcome of that,” said Gillian.

Novak, however, said he wasn’t sure that the comparisons to neighboring communities weren’t comparing apples to oranges. And he said he strongly felt that the best option would be to ask for bids. 

“Competitive bidding gets you to transparency,” said Novak.

Nero agreed that going out for bids is more transparent, but not the only — or even most important — thing to consider.

“Negotiated work comes when you have a relationship with the people you work with,” Nero said. “A bid or proposal for work is very transparent. There are a lot of variables for us to consider, and certainly the relationship is one.”

Nero added that from the numbers he saw in Gillian’s report, Forest Park was indeed paying less for services than other towns. “We were lower by several dollars per unit, which is significant,” he said. “We were given numbers. We were given data. And that’s what we have to work with.”

In 2014, the village signed a five-year contract with Republic Services, which was extended by a year in 2018.

However, Commissioner Byrnes pointed out that the 2018 extension was approved because the council didn’t think it was fair to go out for an RFP right before the election, which could mean saddling a new council with a contract they hadn’t voted for. It would allow the new council time to make the decision for themselves.

Hoskins supported extending the contract with Republic Services. “This is a recommendation from staff,” said Hoskins, “people who have put a lot of hours into this, probably more hours than all of us combined have spent looking at the numbers. For as long as I’ve lived in Forest Park, about 20 years, I’ve gotten used to seeing the blue trucks. They provide really reliable service. They can do the village in one day. They basically have been a pretty good service provider. I suppose you could go out to have RFPs for any service provided to the village, but if you have good service, I’m not sure what the point is.”

Hoskins added that if Public Works Director John Doss or Department of Public Health and Safety Director Steve Glinke got any unsolicited proposals that eclipsed what Republic is providing or offering, they would let the council know. 

“We all want to wisely use resources,” said Hoskins. “An RFP takes employee hours to administer. Sometimes numbers don’t come in 100 percent accurately. Costs are understated. In this instance, we’re almost getting into micromanaging. We can either vote this up or down, but it’s recommended by staff. I’m going to support this contract. It makes sense for the village.”