CBJ, Waste Management nearing deal for recycling facility

The Juneau Assembly has given the city’s Public Works and Law departments the go ahead to continue negotiating with landfill operator Waste Management for a new municipal recycling facility at the dump.

The so-called MRF (murf) would consolidate three separate city-funded recycling programs under one roof – household products, as well as hazardous materials and junk vehicle disposal.

The city and Waste Management have been trying to work out the details of a contract since the end of January. As Casey Kelly reports, the two sides say they’re inching closer to a deal and hope to have it completed in the coming months.

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Waste Management has agreed to build the municipal recycling facility, and the city has agreed to pay the company about a million dollars per year over the next decade to operate it. But after two days of face-to-face negotiations last week neither side was ready to sign a contract.

Kirk Duncan is the city’s Public Works Director.

“Clearly they want assurances that we’re going to continue the program for ten years. We want some assurances that – while they have performed very well in the six years of the current recycling program – if we’re going to make a ten year commitment, we want to make sure that we have assurances that they’re going to run the program well,” Duncan says. “So, you can imagine that with those kind of issues, we’re working through them.”

Duncan declined to talk specifics, but says the two sides made progress during last week’s talks.

“They presented us with a 33-page contract. We added things to their contract. And after the two days negotiations Waste Management took the information that we requested and they’re going to incorporate it into the contract,” says Duncan. “And we should see something back within two weeks or so from their attorneys, and then we’ll go to the second round.”

The city has hired Constance Hornig, a Los Angeles-based attorney with experience drafting and negotiating municipal solid waste contracts. Duncan says she refers to herself as “The Garbage Attorney.” After the negotiations with Waste Management, Hornig and Duncan briefed the Juneau Assembly during a closed-door executive session last week.

“Waste Management is the largest waste company in the world. So, we felt that it would be in our best interest to make sure that we had someone who was just totally familiar with all of Waste Management’s negotiating tactics,” Duncan says.

After hearing Duncan and Hornig’s presentation, the Assembly gave its approval to continuing with the negotiations.

Dean Kattler is Waste Management’s Regional Vice President for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. He also declined to discuss the particulars, but agrees with Duncan that last week’s talks yielded some progress.

“Meeting face-to-face across a table always helps keep things moving and now there’s just some points that we need to refine and continue to discuss,” says Kattler. “So, I’d like to say that we’re continuing to push the ball down the field.”

Still, Kattler says the sooner a deal gets done, the better.

“We’re under a pretty tight timeline if we’re going to try and get this facility up and running, and do the construction that’s necessary during this year’s construction window,” Kattler says.

Juneau’s recycling program has been breaking even in recent years, despite ups and downs in the recyclables market and the challenge of shipping materials to the Lower 48. When the Assembly last year decided to put the city’s entire recycling program out to bid under one contract, Duncan said the idea was to lower costs and expand services. He’s still optimistic that can be accomplished through the deal with Waste Management.

“We’d like to get this contract wrapped up, but we’re not going to hurry into a bad contract,” Duncan says.

Arrow Refuse – the company that provides curbside garbage pickup in Juneau – is planning to offer curbside recycling service to its customers. Arrow officials have said the new municipal recycling facility will be a key to that effort. The company plans to announce details soon.

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