IN THE COMMUNITY: ABQ City Council Stands by Process, Upholds Waste Management’s Recycling Center RFP

On Monday night, the Albuquerque City Council voted 8-1 to approve a request for proposals that had already been awarded to Waste Management to plan a state-of-the-art recycling facility. Councilor Klarissa Peña was the lone “no” vote.

The Chamber was there to testify in support Waste Management and its RFP, which was awarded and announced on Jan. 23 but brought before the Council this week to address concerns raised by the current recycling center operator that the RFP was unclear. A representative from the city’s Purchasing Department explained questions about the RFP were asked, answered and shared with all applicants during the process, dispelling that claim.

D’Val Westphal, the Chamber’s executive vice president of policy and programs, testified in support of the RFP on two counts:

“First and foremost is a fair and reliable process that business can count on. This RFP for a new recycling facility followed every city procedure required. It was a competitive process. It was scored by the Ad Hoc Evaluation Committee, which gave the highest scores to Waste Management, a Chamber member, with no questions or reservations, and with no protest from competitors during the prescribed period.

“And yet here we are. It is essential tonight that the City Council stands by the procedures that are in place and that were followed to a “T” — and supports this RFP. That sends the message that Albuquerque will provide businesses the certainty they need to survive and thrive. That our governing body does not move the goalposts. That we are indeed open for business.

“Second, the city administration clearly knows it is time to deliver a state-of-the-art recycling facility to residents – that’s why it sought one via the RFP process. Albuquerqueans deserve a modern recycling facility, and Waste Management has committed to providing it. The company has already invested $100,000 in the project and plans to build a $40 million to $60 million facility that can handle the city’s recyclable waste stream, will allow us to recycle glass, and has access to the markets that will keep our recyclables out of the landfill.”

In addition, representatives from Waste Management and its recycling partners in the Four Corners and the South Valley testified in support of the RFP, defending the RFP process and explaining the company has around 20 similar projects going on across the globe, showing it has the experience to avoid pitfalls and achieve results.

Metro Albuquerque residents might not be aware that Waste Management is much more than the company that handles Rio Rancho’s trash pickup. It has operated in New Mexico communities for 45 years. And it is, as stated on its website, the world’s largest waste disposal company and one of the first truly integrated waste companies, not only collecting waste but responsibly managing the landfills it ends up in and building robust collection, materials recovery and materials marketing infrastructures to ensure that more of our waste finds a second life.

Councilor Brook Bassan expressed the hope that the company’s economies of scale will be able to deliver lower rates for Albuquerque trash customers. And Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn said that it will be incumbent on the city to quickly figure out how to best collect glass for recycling in the new plant, as her constituents currently have to drive “a long, long way with their cars full of glass” to get it recycled. Peña’s skepticism stemmed from a concern the city decided not to build its own plant years ago and is going down the same road. A member of the administration shared that a study commissioned before the RFP determined a city-built plant was not cost-effective.

Westphal closed her testimony by saying “the Chamber respectfully asks that you honor this RFP and show the city walks its talk – that it stands by its policies and procedures when it comes to doing business and is committed to a greener Albuquerque with a state-of-the-art recycling site.” The Council majority agreed and after discussion voted to have the administration move into contract negotiations with Waste Management on the recycling facility. While the city’s Purchasing Department representative said that will not have to come before councilors, city officials clarified that any zoning changes required to locate the facility.

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