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Originally published Monday, September 30, 2013 at 9:25 PM

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Low bidder for Bellevue waste contract protests decision

CleanScapes, the low bidder for a seven-year Bellevue garbage contract, has asked the City Council to reconsider its decision to contract with the current hauler, Republic Services.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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CleanScapes, the low bidder for Bellevue’s garbage-collection contract, is asking the City Council to reconsider its decision to award the contract to the high bidder, the city’s long-term hauler, Republic Services.

James Greenfield, attorney for CleanScapes, told City Attorney Lori Riordan in a letter the award is “seriously flawed and contrary to law” because it disregarded the council’s own selection criteria and because the decision may have been influenced by “illegal lobbying” on Republic’s behalf.

Greenfield’s letter, dated Friday, was provided to The Seattle Times on Monday.

Five council members voted unanimously Sept. 9 to award the seven-year contract to Republic, even though its proposal was $2.70 per month higher for a typical residential customer than CleanScapes’ proposal. The contract can be renewed for an additional seven years.

Mayor Conrad Lee and Councilman John Stokes said after the vote they were satisfied with Republic’s service and didn’t want to risk a disruption in service by shifting to a new hauler.

Greenfield said in his six-page letter the council should have awarded the contract to CleanScapes because that company outscored Republic on numerical cost and service formulas that the council-approved request for proposals said would be used to choose a contractor.

Eighty percent of the formula was based on price. CleanScapes said it would pick up garbage, recyclables and organic waste for $17.9 million in the first year; Republic’s price was $19.8 million.

Twenty percent of the total score was based on a staff analysis of the companies’ customer service; contract implementation and compliance; operations and systems design; and sustainability. CleanScapes outscored Republic in this area, too. In the scoring system used, CleanScapes received 18.5 points out of a possible 20, and Republic had 15.8.

Several council members said during deliberations that stability should also be considered, and Councilwoman Claudia Balducci cited public service, calling Republic “a very active and consistently active member of the community, supportive of great organizations.”

Greenfield said the council shouldn’t have considered factors other than the initial selection criteria.

He also said the council’s decision appeared to have been improperly influenced by emails and phone calls from two Republic “subcontractors,” composting contractor Cedar Grove and Bellevue nonprofit children’s museum KidsQuest.

Council members said before their vote they would not be influenced by those contacts. Under city policy, bidders and their agents aren’t supposed to have contact with council members before a contract vote.

Cedar Grove processes food and yard waste from Republic, but not from CleanScapes, Cedar Grove spokeswoman Susan Thoman said. President and CEO Steve Banchero contacted council members in support of Republic.

KidsQuest spokeswoman Shelley Saunders said the museum is not a Republic subcontractor. KidsQuest Executive Director Putter Bert contacted council members to let them know Republic has supported KidsQuest and other Bellevue-area nonprofit organizations, Saunders said.

Republic has made a $2,500 commitment to a KidsQuest fundraising event next Saturday and has been in discussions about educating children on waste recycling and reuse at a future museum site, Saunders said.

Bellevue Family YMCA Executive Director Paul Lwali told the City Council before its contract vote that Republic is “more than a solid-waste company; they’re truly a partner.”

Mayor Lee said Monday he had not seen the CleanScapes letter and could not comment on it.

But Lee said he was “absolutely” comfortable with the decision to contract with Republic for another seven to 14 years of trash collection.

“We gave our rationale,” Lee said. “We always try to explain why we make our decisions. I think we were very clear and it’s all public statements.”

City Attorney Riordan could not be reached for comment.

Councilman Kevin Wallace recused himself from voting on the contract, saying he hadn’t known of Cedar Grove’s relationship with Republic when he had “a number of communications” with the company. He said later Banchero is a friend.

Councilman John Chelminiak also declined to participate because he has a business relationship with Waste Management, a garbage hauler that did not bid on the contract.

Voting in favor of a contract with Republic were Balducci, Lee, Stokes, Don Davidson and Jennifer Robertson.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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