Garner, N.C. — A contract dispute is growing in the Wake County town of Garner, where town leaders did not go with the lowest bid for trash pickup, despite the fact the town is cutting other services.
The lowest bidder for the town's new solid waste contract was Shaw Sanitation, based in Wake Forest, but the Town Council voted 4-1 to sign a $4.6 million three-year contract with All-Star, which cost $360,000 more.
Garner has cut more than $3 million from the town's budget.
"That's the big question on the street in these economic times," Mayor Ronnie Williams said. "In these economic times, why did this happen? We're supposed to be saving money. We're supposed to be cutting back."
Town council member Buck Kennedy said All-Star is based closer to the town – in Benson – and has family ties to Garner. He also said there was some concern after a WRAL 5 on your Side Investigation that showed Shaw crews dumping curbside recycling in the same truck for regular trash.
Shaw executives have said they have fixed the problem, assured town leaders of that in a letter, and still outscored the other companies by as much as 25 points on an evaluation administered by town staff.
"To us, we should have been awarded the contract based on the merits and based on the fact that we were lower (in cost)," Shaw Sanitation's chief financial officer, Craig Jackson said.
"We have over 30 years experience," he added. "The company selected has approximately six. They have about eight employees. We have approximately 40."
But Kennedy said the lowest bidder does not always guarantee the best service.
"We elected to choose the firm that would provide us, Garner citizens, with the absolute very best service," Kennedy said. "I think the Town Council made an appropriate decision. We'll wait to see what transpires."
It's a decision Williams, and others in the community don't understand, especially when budget cuts for this year ran deep.
"We cut (the budget) for youth sports leagues. We cut it for performing arts. We cut it for Garner area ministries which help a lot of people," Williams said. "I would like to see a change in direction, a change in the decision that would award it to the low bidder."
This issue will come up again at Garner's next town council meeting next Tuesday.
"It's out there, and the public deserves an answer," Williams said.
Jackson said representatives from his company will be there. He also said the company is considering legal action and has filed a formal protest against the Town Council's decision.