Plans to put Miramar Landfill operations out to bid hit a speed bump Wednesday at City Hall.
By a 4-1 vote, the Council's Rules Committee directed the mayor's staff to address a number of concerns about safety, environmental and financial issues before the process gets a green light.
'Bidding-out' landfill operations has become the mayor's Plan B, after his proposal to sell off the landfill's ground lease failed to attract any offers.
Unions that represent landfill employees say his staff had leaked confidential information to prospective bidders.
"It's your duty to keep this managed competition process lawful," said Joan Raymond, president of Local 127 of the American Federation of City, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
"Bidders who have already been given inside information must be excluded from this managed competition, because they already have an unfair advantage."
Raymond told the committee that the data that was leaked included "redacted, procurement-sensitive information about such things as greenery processing and refuse operating costs, five-year forecasts and gate rates, to name a few."
The city paid consultants half a million dollars while trying to sell the Miramar solid waste facility, which is leased from the Department of the Navy.
Critics of divesting it say it generates a surplus of several million dollars over its $37 million annual budget.
The mayor's proposal to seek competitive bids from current city workers and private firms drew opposition from more than two dozen speakers at the Rules Committee hearing.
They warned that private operators would cut corners and take risks to turn a profit, and complained that the the mayor's office is moving too fast.
"If we have something already working," said Emerald Hills resident Gayle Reid, "why are we trying to fix something that's not broken?"
Others raised environmental issues, especially about polluted groundwater seeping into nearby Rose Creek and San Clemente Creek from the landfill.
"If 'Murphy's Law' applies when you outsource," said Deborah Knight of Friends of Rose Canyon, "you are sending leachate, groundwater, whatever, directly into Mission Bay."
Said Jeannie Brown, San Diego chapter president of Common Cause: "When I have a car salesman trying to rush me to make a decision, I always worry that there's something they are hiding."
The proposed standard for compaction of solid waste came into question, because the landfill's useful life is projected only until 2022.
"The only reason we've been able to extend the life of that landfill," said Damian Tryon, business representative for AFSCME District 36, "is because we've always done better."
The Rules Committee gave the mayor's office until June 22nd to respond to all the issues raised about the landfill work subject to bidding -- including a statement from the Navy as to its stance on the city soliciting offers from private operators.
As for the allegation that confidential landfill information was leaked to prospective private-industry bidders, Rachel Laing, deputy mayoral press secretary, issued this statement:
"There was nothing given to the potential bidders during the landfill divestiture process beyond the public RFQ/RFP laying out the expected service levels. The employees also have full access to this same bid request.
"Potential bidders were also were given a tour of operations. It’s absurd to suggest that public information and a simple tour would give private bidders an unfair advantage over the employees who currently operate the site day-to-day."
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