It is appropriate that I explain what transpired at the Special Meeting of Council and outline some key points of the waste tender process.
In April this year, Goondiwindi Regional Council called for tenders for both waste tenders, specifically the operations of the landfill and the curbside collection, which was to upgrade to recycling. A Council survey of residents on their views about recycling suggested that 71 percent of people would not want recycling if it came at a major cost. Consequently, the tenders were called for both ventures.
Tenders closed on 26 May and a panel consisting of Joel Harris from Resource Innovations and two staff members where appointed by Council to complete assessments and bring a recommendation to Council. Assessment criteria and procedure was decided and each tenderer was advised how the assessment would work.
The weightings used were:
15 % for Community and Local Economy
25% Capacity and Capability - making up 55% of the criteria
The remaining 45% weighting was on price, the major criteria.
The tenderers obviously were not advised of the percentage until the meeting day. The meeting was conducted in a fully open session for all to hear how the proceedings where handled.
I understand that there has been some concern raised over the assessment and inclusion of certain items, which is being clarified.
The panel met and performed individual assessments of the non-price component before being handed the individual tenders and prices. After pricing assessment was completed, the recommendation that went to Council from the panel was to accept the combined tender option of JJ Richards for both facilities, incorporating all discounts.
It was then up to Council to debate the recommendation.
The difficult part was that on one side of the fence was a single tender for both services that offered Council economies of scale whereas on the other side, there were two individual tenderers with individual proposals. When combined, the savings from the JJ Richards tender was more than $700,000 for the period of the contract.
Council needed to decide whether it was in the community’s interest to accept the tender of JJ Richards- a family company based in Toowoomba - or to split the two tenders and accept the individual local tender. Choosing the latter option would mean having to pay more, and implementing a rate rise of just under 1 percent to all ratepayers in the region.
The question is what is a reasonable amount to pay to ensure Council supports local purchases.
The question is what is a reasonable amount to pay to ensure Council supports local purchases?
Councillor Mackenzie had declared a Conflict of Interest and was not present for the debate and subsequent decision.
Councillor Brennan spoke against the motion, as he was not comfortable in losing the local content and argued that Council should absorb the higher cost.
The balance of Council was of the opinion that the extra costs were just too great and that the interest of the community was best served by taking the cheapest price, a view supported by the panel recommendation. The matter was then put to a vote and decided accordingly.
I supported that decision based on the fact that this Council has made a conscious decision to keep rate rises to a minimum.
Recently, there have been reports of power price increases of up to 20 percent in the Goondiwindi area. I have also attended a number of meetings of concerned residents who are expecting large rate increases due to the recent valuations. I do not want to add to that burden.
Some in the rural sector are looking at a reasonable season but there are plenty of areas, particularly to the west, that are experiencing near on drought conditions and it would seem a massive burden to impose any extra costs on these ratepayers.
Obviously, Council could adapt and just increase the collection areas but then we come back to the survey, which rejected major cost increases in 2011.
I believe Council is experiencing more ratepayers, particularly the elderly and pensioners, who are unable to take advantage of the discount period offered for their rates payment or are having general difficulty paying their rates. I simply cannot support a rate increase of the proportion described.
I must stress that these are my personal comments. I will leave other Councillors to make their opinions known.
I found this the hardest decision to make in my 18 years on Council. I appreciate the efforts of the incumbent operators who are excellent corporate citizens. However, I could not justify choosing the local option for the reasons I have stated.
I do not expect everyone to agree with my explanation but hope there may be a better understanding of why I made the decision I did.