Trail Ridge Contract Changed from '08 Deal; the Proposal Is Being Criticized as Lacking Competitive Bidding

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Byline: TIA MITCHELL

The proposed settlement agreement between Jacksonville and Waste Management for landfill operations is markedly different than the $750 million deal negotiated by Mayor John Peyton in 2008.

City auditors will now determine how different - and evaluate whether taxpayers will save money or pay more under the 41-page proposal that was e-mailed to City Council members late Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a group that filed a lawsuit against the city over Peyton's proposal last year says it will attempt to force competitive bidding by renewing activity on the suit, which has remained dormant for months. Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County is also questioning the perceived about-face in some council members' support for settling with Waste Management.

The proposed agreement calls for a number of changes in the fee structure. For example, the city would pay Waste Management $10.58 for each ton of trash disposed at Trail Ridge, up from the $10.21 fee in the mayor's proposal. However, it appears that the new plan does not require the city to provide fuel for landfill operations, an apparent cost savings.

Under the mayor's proposal, Waste Management agreed to pay to close and maintain the landfill once it reached capacity, saving the city $1 million to $1.5 million annually. Similar language isn't in the new settlement agreement, an apparent cost increase.

The settlement was reached last week, negotiated by the city General Counsel's Office and its private attorneys, the firm of Tanner Bishop.

Council President Richard Clark said Wednesday night he expects the Council Auditor's Office to drop everything to focus on the settlement proposal, which will be formally introduced as a bill at Tuesday's council meeting. It could be voted on as early as April 27.

Without the auditors' comparison of the settlement to the mayor's proposal and the existing contract, it will be difficult to determine whether the deal is a good one, Clark said.

"You can't compare it because they're all different," he said. …