Multi-unit recycling plan will undergo third-party review

By Charles Hamilton, The StarPhoenix August 14, 2013 - A third party will decide if Cosmo Industries’ plan to pick up recycling from Saskatoon’s townhouses, condos and apartments will meet the city’s needs. “I just want to make sure the numbers add up,” Coun. Charlie Clark told city council Wednesday night before proposing the third-party review.

Cosmo has a contract with the City of Saskatoon to pick up everything from paper to plastic to glass and aluminum from townhouses, condos and apartments for $4.66 per unit per month. While the proposed Cosmo program is the same price as single-unit households pay for curbside recycling, it is twice what some condo owners and apartment complexes are paying now for recycling services from private companies, city council heard.

While councillors did vote to send Cosmo’s plan out to the public for review, they wanted some justification for the higher price.

“I don’t know what I can tell people when they ask me how we come up with that price,” Coun. Ann Iwanchuk said. “I just can’t tell them it’s because that’s what someone else pays.”

Council did vote to amend the 15-year term of the proposed contract, which is twice as long as the city’s current arrangement with Loraas Recycle. Cosmo indicated via email that the contract could be shortened to nine years with an option to extend for another six.

“I don’t have concern about their ability to pick up and process. My concern is the length of the contract and the price,” Coun. Darren Hill said.

The so-called “Cosmo compromise” that guaranteed Cosmo the multi-unit recycling contract was hammered out after the single-unit dwelling contract was awarded to Loraas Recycle in 2012. That compromise agreement meant Cosmo was guaranteed the contract rather than it being opened up to a public bidding process.

Hill said he was pleased the contract length was shortened, but urged the audit saying that without an open public bidding process there is no way to know if apartment dwellers and condo owners are getting value for their money.

“If the audit comes back and tells me it’s a fair price, I will support that. But without a tender process we don’t know that it is a fair price,” Hill said.

Jeff Jorgenson, the city’s utility services manager, told council that because the project is not going out to a public bid process it will be difficult to determine fair market value. Nonetheless, council wanted more details on the business plan and the pricing.

The audit will be done at the same time as city administrators take the Cosmo plan out to the public.

While the majority of councillors voted in favour of the reduced nine-year contract term, councillors Pat Lorje, Randy Donauer and Eric Olauson and Mayor Don Atchison all voted in favour of keeping the contract at the original 15 years.

“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle — when you change one thing it has an impact on everything else,” Lorje said.

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