A discussion about which company the city of Arnold should hire to dispose of hazardous waste evolved into a wider debate about the city's lowest bidder policy during a city council meeting last Thursday.
When the city bids out jobs, it is required by ordinance to accept the lowest qualified bidder. Officials may reject low bids if they're offered by companies that do not appear to be capable of handling a job.
At issue was Arnold’s like old paint, anti-freeze or batteries. The city has a $20,000 grant from the St. Louis County-Jefferson County Solid Waste Management District to pay for the event. All the bids they received came in higher than this amount, requiring the council to approve funding for the remaining amount, which amounts to about $3,000.
PSC Environmental Services sent in the lowest bid at $23,262.
Some council members wanted to ignore the low bid and go with Tradebe, which bid $23,467 for the job and had done the previous two events for Arnold.
Ward 4 Councilman Ken Moss suggested that the city stick with Tradebe because the company's bid was only a few hundred dollars higher than the lowest bidder, and had done a good job at the last collection.
He pointed out that the bids were only estimates of the cost of the collection—the actual price would be determined by how much paint, batteries or other waste that residents brought in for disposal.
City staff confirmed that the event would be shut down after they collected a predetermined amount of waste so as not to go over budget.
Ward 3 Councilman Phil Amato warned his fellow council members that this was a slippery slope—that if they favored a familiar company this time it could come back to haunt the city later.
“What’s going to happen, is this real close on this one, but there’s going to be a time that somebody’s going to come by with something bigger. And we’re going to end up in court and somebody will go back into the minutes of this meeting and say, here, I can prove that you did it once before,” Amato said.
City Attorney Robert Sweeney also advised the council to consider ignoring the lowest bid based on one year’s event, not on the experience of many years. He said council members could do whatever they wanted, but suggested their reasoning would be hard to back up in court.
After much debate, the council voted to not hire Tradebe, with four rejecting the bid and three favoring it. This caused the council to return to the original resolution, which would accept PSC Environmental Services as the lowest bid, which they passed with a vote of 6-1.