The deal, under development for at least three years, requires the haulers to run garbage trucks on compressed natural gas within five years. The city will make the gas from landfill methane.
Officials have said they hope the move will reduce Augusta’s ground-level ozone, for which the city was designated a non-attainment area by the state Environmental Protection Division.
Commissioners spent weeks last summer debating the wisdom of reducing garbage pickup from twice a week to weekly, but the conversation now has turned to the two haulers’ use of minority subcontractors. Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson raised the issue Monday at a meeting of the city’s public services committee.
“The question is, will we have enough local participation from our local small businesses to be able to handle the needs of this contract,” Johnson said to a handful of waste haulers.
Johnson and Commissioner Marion Williams took issue with the city’s bidding process, which began with a request for proposals from firms willing to construct three compressed natural gas fueling stations and all trucks to run on the gas. The requirements later were loosened, but the contract was not rebid, a move that Procurement Director Geri Sams said she opposed.
After the change, the small haulers “felt that they were kind of played, because now they don't have a seat at the table,” Johnson said.
Under the agreement, the prime contractors are required to use just two of the five existing subcontractors, most of which have hauled city or county trash since consolidation.
A representative of Berry Smith Sanitation said he feared losing his job when the current contract runs out in May and hasn't been offered another one by Inland or Advanced.
“These are local businesses that have been here in this community doing a good job,” Williams said.
Solid Waste Director Mark Johnson, who did not attend Monday’s meeting, has said that the contract has been extended several times and that without a new one, waste pickup might grind to a halt in May.