City of San Diego employees have just been recommended for retaining control of operations at the Miramar Landfill, after a so-called "managed competition" process that invited private bidders.
Their winning bid figures to save taxpayers millions of dollars over five years.
It’s the fourth straight managed competition in which city workers have prevailed over private vendors seeking outsource contracts.
Those firms didn't come close to under-bidding the in-house offers by the required 10 percent.
But more managed competitions – involving storm water operations, street and sidewalk repairs, and capital improvement programs -- are on the horizon.
As for operating the Miramar Landfill, it's a dirty, smelly, and logistically tricky job.
But city employees were determined to keep it.
Some of the 80 now on the payroll there won't be around under the cost-saving offer accepted by the city's Managed Competition Independent Review Board at its meeting Thursday afternoon..
The bid was all about maximizing efficiency, eliminating redundancies, and automating certain functions – and landfill employees who attended the board meeting broke into applause when it was officially recommended.
"Those are the front-line employees making the bid; this isn't management,” says Cathleen Higgins, who handles managed competition issues for the city’s largest labor group, the San Diego Municipal Employees Assn. “So when we get the folks who really know the job, they're able to produce something that's going to be very good for the city and good for the taxpayers."
The city initially wanted to sell off its ground lease with the Navy, but Uncle Sam said 'no dice'.
And private waste firms balked at taking responsibility for strict environmental standards.
"It's a very, very sensitive piece of land and it's in a very sensitive place,” says Clare Crawford, executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives, a progressive San Diego-based think tank. “So there's still a lot of environmental concerns. And we really believe the city did reduce those standards at the very beginning of the process, to pave the way for privatization."
While municipal workers are 4-for-4 in managed competitions – prior bids involved print shop functions, vehicle fleet maintenance and street-sweeping -- they harbor concerns over the even-handedness of the city's bid specifications and protocols for future match-ups.
"The employees need to feel like they've got a level playing field, so they know it's going to be a fair, transparent process,” says Higgins. “They want to win this because they want the public to look at them, as the public should be looking at them, with respect."
Mayor Sanders is expected to announce details of the new landfill contract Friday morning.
Meantime, there have been grumblings among outside vendors about having to undercut city worker bids by ten percent.
For their part, the municipal employee teams say the private firms haven't even matched them 'straight up' yet.