SPRINGDALE -- For nearly 30 years, the city of Springdale has extended its contract with Waste Management for residential trash pickup rather than letting it for bid.
The current contract ends in November.
The City Council on Tuesday approved a contract with Solid Waste Solutions of Texas to manage the bid process for the service.
Mike Overton has served on the council for many of those years.
"It's about time," Overton said when the Solid Waste Solutions contract was introduced. "It was reaching the point that it was getting ridiculous. We'd just extend Sunray's contract, not put it out for bids. That's not fair.
"And that's why I voted against it every time."
Waste Management bought Sunray in 1988, took over the contract and continued to provide the city with sanitation services.
Mayor Doug Sprouse said he's appointing a committee of city leaders and residents to work with Solid Waste Solutions in determining the city's wants and needs and vetting proposals when they are returned.
Colby Fulfer, the mayor's chief of staff, said hiring Solid Waste Solutions will help ensure that residents benefit from the best practices in the sanitation industry.
And, he noted, the city's $45,500 contract with Solid Waste Solutions will be paid by the sanitation company that wins the contract. Essentially, the city will get the consultant's services free, he said.
"The consultants are aware what services are available in other cities across the country," Sprouse said. "I don't want us to leave out something important because we didn't know about it or think about it."
"There's always more to garbage than people realize -- whether to use bags or carts, how often it's collected," said R.L. Landrip, a founder of Solid Waste Solutions. "You want your garbage removed in fastest way with reasonable results," he said.
In December, Waste Management had 22,052 customer accounts in Springdale, according to Chris Clark, director of finance for Springdale Water Utilities. Customers pay Waste Management through their water bills.
Residential customers pay $17.31 a month for their garbage service -- $14.27 for curbside garbage pickup and $3.04 for curbside recycling, Clark said.
Sprouse noted that businesses, industry and institutions contract directly with a sanitation company for waste removal, and the city's Public Works Department will pick up bulky waste twice a year when residents call to request it. The Eco-Vista Landfill in Tontitown is owned by Waste Management, and the landfill accepts that bulky waste for free.
Former Mayor Charles McKinney signed the contract for residential trash collection in December 1995. City records show that the contract was set to expire in 2005, 10 years after it was put into place.
During the past 28 years, the city has added six amendments to the contract to change or add services for residents. Each amendment extended the contract for two, five or 10 years. Those amendments included curbside recycling, new garbage bins and most recently, a day dedicated to removing yard waste.
In 2018, the city asked Waste Management to pick up yard waste every Monday. City officials wanted the grass clippings and tree branches picked up on Monday, assuming that most residents completed yardwork over the weekend.
Overton, whose ward covers the southeastern part of town, said he regularly hears complaints about inconsistent pickup and not repairing in a timely manner the carts residents put their trash in.
He said it took the company nine weeks to repair the wheels on his cart.
Brian Powell, whose ward covers the southwestern area of Springdale, said the only complaints he has received were some communication issues during last year's inclement weather.
After a winter storm Feb. 3, 2022, which left roughly 6 inches of snow on the ground, Waste Management canceled its routes for three days. Residents complained that they didn't know when the garbage would be picked up.
Fulfer said Waste Management representatives have been very responsive. Jamie Vernon, an area representative for Waste Management, said he meets quarterly with city staff and presents reports to the City Council.
Through the regular service and recycling, Waste Management interacts with Springdale customers 132,000 times a month, he said.
And after the snow in the area Tuesday night, the trucks on Wednesday ran their complete routes, but with a delayed start, Vernon reported.
The company operates a centralized call center, with one line dedicated to Springdale, answered by a person who knows the city and its contract, he said.
Springdale residents also last year expressed frustration when the truck crews didn't pick up everything from the curbs.
Each of the company's new trucks uses an automated arm to pick up the carts and empty the contents. The automatic arm claws the carts from the sides to pick them up. The arm must have space between other bins, mailboxes or any other features to grab the carts.
The new trucks also require just one person to make collections. Picking up trash outside the bins would require the driver to exit the truck.
"Our goal is to be as productive as we can be," said George Wheatley, a now-retired senior manager of marketing and planning for Waste Management. "Overall, it's much better for us and the city. You don't have those old diesel trucks clattering around your neighborhood."
Landrip said he spent his career in the sanitation industry before opening his current business. He said a way to remove extra trash might prove essential to a city's residents, so he will find a way.
"I call it the mother-in-law effect," he said. "Your mother-in-law is coming to town and your wife has made you clean out the house. Now you've got to get rid of the stuff, but we don't want you dropping it off on a county road. You need extra bags.
"You've got to give homeowners a way to get out of a jam."
Sprouse said two additions to the Springdale service might be collection of recycling every week and more options in cart sizes. Recycling currently is picked up every other week.
Waste Management plans to bid for the city contract, Vernon said. He noted that the company owns and operates the 609-acre Eco-Vista Landfill in Tontitown, which is licensed for municipal solid waste and construction and demolition debris.
He also said the company's trucks in Springdale run on compressed natural gas rather than diesel for a cleaner and quieter operation.
The landfill is important, Sprouse said, but so are the company's recycling services to divert waste from the landfill.
Amendments to the Springdale contract over the years allowed customers to pay a recycling fee and place a small bin on their curb for pickup.
A later amendment added the recycling fee to all customers' fees and provided each customer with a 92-gallon cart for recycling.
This second effort increased recycling rates in the city by 70% to 80%, Sprouse said.