Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Bad Economy Could be Good for Trail Ridge Landfill

One good thing for the Trail Ridge Landfill has come out of the bad economy: less trash is being disposed of at the landfill. (See the latest Council Auditor’s quarterly summary report – click on Report #661 on the Council Auditor’s web page).   As it turns out, the bad economy could bring about another good result. 

While Mayor Peyton thinks he has the best deal he can get to expand and run Trail Ridge landfill, the bad economy could turn out to be good for the Trail Ridge contract as well – if City Council puts it out to bid.   Sarasota County just found that out for themselves with their proposed landfill expansion. (The Sarasota County landfill is projected to run out of space in the next year to year-and-a half.) 

“Not only are the bids coming in at lower amounts, but we are getting more bids,” says Commissioner Jon Thaxton.  Original estimates put the cost at more than $24 million, but because of the decline in the economy those prices have dropped [to $18.5 million].  The county was unable to find any local suitors to do the work.  The job will go to a North Carolina company.  Only a small portion will go to local workers.  “While we do want to emphasize the need for local contractors, we are not going to pay excessive money to get there.  That would be counterproductive and not good stewards of the tax payers money.”

Btw, Sarasota County was able to extend the life of their landfill by three years with an aggressive recycling program.

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City Bid Process Challenged for Cecil Field

I guess bidding out the Trail Ridge Landfill contract may not be such a great idea if the City’s Professional Services Evaluation Committee handles that bid process the way they did this one (at least according to the bid challenger anyway).

From the Jacksonville Business Journal:

A Fort Lauderdale firm looking to be the master developer of Cecil Commerce Center is protesting the score it received in the bidding from the city’s evaluation committee.

The protest filed by MBA Development Partners LLC will be heard by the city’s Professional Services Evaluation Committee April 30. Dallas-based Hillwood Development was scored highest by the committee, but its vote was stalled after MBA filed a protest.

“It is very uncommon for the fourth-ranked bidder to protest,” said Michael Clapsaddle, the city’s chief of procurement.

The firm protests receiving a 15 out of 40 in the financial responsibility category, which is one of 10 criteria. He said even if MBA were to receive a perfect score in the category, they would still place last.

MBA’s attorney, Matthew Jackson, also questioned how the city could have scored Hillwood the highest in the financial responsibility category since it had to give up its stake in a large mixed-use development in Dallas after not being able to bring anticipated returns to investors.

“An initial review of the scoring indicates that the decision was at best, ambiguous and arbitrary,” he wrote. “Worse, the integrity and the transparency of the process by which the master developer is chosen is highly suspect.”

MBA also protested the score it received in the “volume of current and prior work for using agencies” category. It turned out that they scored a perfect score, but a faxed copy from the committee appeared to give them a negative score.

“You can have the greatest response in the world but if your written response doesn’t address all issues of the [request for proposal] you’ll get a lower score,” Clapsaddle said.

Hillwood, which leased 602,000 square feet of space at West Point Trade Center in Jacksonville to Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. last year, beat out San Diego-based The Allen Group, Malvern, Penn.-based Liberty Property Trust, and Jacksonville’s Steinemann & Co.

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Hung Out to Dry

 Let’s see if I have this straight.

According to a recent TU article, Alan Williams and Doug Wood, former City employees involved with the original Waste Management deal, were approached a couple of months ago by Alan Mosley, the mayor’s chief administrative officer. According to Williams, Mosley told him the original Waste Management contract was for the entire site and suggested that Williams sign an affidavit supporting that assertion. A few days later, Williams says he received an affidavit in the mail from Paul Harden.

At the same time that was going on (and as posted on Jaxpolitics before), the Mayor’s staff, including Adam Hollingworth and Alan Mosley (among others), were involved in regular meetings with Paul Harden, Waste Management’s representative.

So given that, does the following explanation in the TU make sense?

During an open forum at the First Coast Tiger Bay Club on Friday, Peyton was asked whether Mosley was acting on his own or under the mayor’s direction.

“He didn’t do it at my request or my direction,” Peyton said.

Peyton said he didn’t know Mosley had called Wood and Williams but did not see anything wrong with his aide trying to better understand the city’s legal risks.

Harden said that no one from the city directed him to follow up on Mosley’s conversations.

“I’m not acting on behalf of the city,” Harden said on April 11.

Of course, Harden’s original letter that accompanied the affidavit stated that the men’s signing of the affidavit would really “help Mayor Peyton.”  So, why do I feel like we aren’t exactly getting the whole story here?

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Countdown to Thursday

The first of the City Council’s two hearings on the Trail Ridge Landfill contract will be held this Thursday, April 9 at 2pm in the City Council Chambers.  All Jacksonville residents are welcome to attend to share their opinion with the City Council.  For those unable to make the meeting, a second meeting will be held on Thursday, April 24 at 4pm.  Of course, local citizens can also make their voices heard by contact their District Council Member and the five At-Large Council Members.

For those looking for insight on the issue, the Times-Union has provided good coverage of the ongoing debate.  You can view it by searching their archives.  Or, for my analysis, simply click here.  Whatever your point of view, do make sure that your voice is heard in this process.

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House Committees Slap Happy With Taxes….er…um…Fees

Florida House committees were certainly slap happy with taxpayers’ money Thursday morning.  The House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee passed a bill that significantly increases driving-related fees, doubling the fees in many cases.  But these additional fees won’t go into the State’s Transportation Trust Fund where they were previously directed.  No, these increases are going straight to the State’s General Revenue Fund. 

Of course, the committee didn’t pass the bill without some high drama according to Miami Herald’s Naked Politics.  It seems the committee didn’t have the votes to pass the chair’s proposed committee bill, so the committee recessed for about an hour, found three Republicans, and quickly reconvened and passed the bill 8-5 along party lines.  Duval delegation members Jennifer Carroll and Lake Ray voted for the tax, er, I mean fee increases.  Local representative Audrey Gibson voted against them.  

I’m not sure which I am more incensed about – the $686 million in fee increases to motorists after House legislators couldn’t bring themselves to get rid of sales tax exemptions on such things as charter boats and skyboxes, or the fact that our representatives robbed the funds received from the increased fees to put in the State’s General Revenue Fund to try to plug the budget hole. 

Read the rest of this entry »

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Abel Harding: A Meeting With The Mayor & A Trail Ridge Analysis

A week or so ago, I was surprised to get a call from the Mayor’s Office stating that he wanted to meet with me.  According to his staff, he wanted the opportunity to present his side of the Trail Ridge story.  So, I spent nearly with an hour with the Mayor and his staff on a recent Monday discussing the Trail Ridge Landfill.

The first questions the Mayor asked are ones that I’m asked frequently: “Why do I blog?” and “Am I getting paid to do it?” I explained to the Mayor that I’m a believer in open government, in accountability, and in ethics. And no, I don’t get paid. There are no advertisers on this site and I receive no compensation for anything I write.  

The Mayor then began talking about the Waste Management no-bid contract. A little history: Trail Ridge is a 900-acre site off US 301.  There is currently one cell on the site which encompasses 144 acres.  That cell is managed by Waste Management, who had the winning bid in the early 90’s—the last time the City bid out the landfill contract.  The dispute between Waste Management and the City of Jacksonville boils down to a disagreement over the term “life of facility.”  The specific word “facility” appears to be the center of the dispute.  Waste Management alleges that they hold the rights to the entire 900-acre site, while the City contends that the term “facility” is strictly limited to the 144-acre cell currently in use.  As we have discussed before, the City’s general counsel at the time the original agreement was initiated, a Florida Coastal Law School professor, and the City’s current general counsel have all stated that the the contract is limited to the current operating cell.  And both the law school professor and the City’s current general counsel have stated that they believe the City is standing on firm legal ground.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Dates Set for Controversial Landfill Hearings

According to  Flog, the Jacksonville City Council has now set the dates for the Trail Ridge Landfill hearings.  The hearings will be before the Committee of the Whole, which will include all 19 of the Council members, at which the Committee will discuss and hear public comment on April 9 (Thursday) at 2pm and on April 23 (Thursday) at 4pm.  Pending their decision, the legislation would then go before the full Council.

The Council had been waiting to hear the recommendation of their Auditor, Kirk Sherman.  As we reported, Mr. Sherman released his report which called for the contract to be bid out.  The moment of truth, as they say, is now fast approaching as the Council will be forced to choose between following the advice of their own Auditor or allowing themselves to be steamrolled by the Mayor who negotiated a contract without bothering to seek their input.

For those unable to make a 2pm or 4pm meeting, their input is no less crucial than those who will be there in person to speak.  Vist our “Government Contacts” page to find the contact information for your Council Members.  (Remember that, in addition to your District Council Member, you are represented by all five At-Large Members.)

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Orlando thinking ahead on trash

From the Orlando Sentinel:

If Orlando leaders get their way, your trash will eventually be used to power your refrigerator and TV.

City officials are working on a plan to build a high-tech plant capable of taking plastic, food scraps and other household garbage, extracting a flammable gas and piping it to the Orlando Utilities Commission to fuel its power plant. A test plant — which could lead to a bigger operation capable of taking all of the area’s garbage — could start construction in as little as 18 months.

For the city, the advantages are clear: energy without the pollution that comes from coal and natural gas, and a way to divert old shoes and dirty diapers from a landfill that costs tens of millions to expand. “The environmental benefits are numerous,” said Orlando Public Works Director Alan Oyler. Read the rest of this entry »

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City tries to give away $470,000

There may be a budget crisis in Jacksonville, but don’t tell that to the Mayor’s Office—at least when it comes to negotiating with Waste Management for that 35 year $750 million no-bid contract.  Folio’s Susan Cooper Eastman highlighted a particular provision of the now infamous contract in this week’s Folio Weekly.  The city has had a long running dispute with Waste Management over noise violations at the Trail Ridge Landfill.  The 47 violations resulted in $470,000 in fines—none of which have been paid.  Those fines are graciously forgiven in the new proposed contract the Mayor is trying to ram through the Council.

Perhaps there is no budget crisis after all.  I wonder who will be next in line to request that the Mayor waive their fines?

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Trail Ridge Dump

Ed Gamble weighs in on Mayor Peyton and the Trail Ridge Landfill.



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