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Norwalk Common Council approves new waste management contract

Norwalk has a new 10-year contract with Win WASTE, formerly City Carting. (File photo)

Despite a few concerns that the city should have finished a strategic waste management plan before approving a new contract for a waste collector and transfer station operator, the Common Council voted 11-2-2 to sign a 7-year contract with Win WASTE Solutions. Council members Nora Niedzielski-Eichner and Dajuan Wiggins voted against the contract, which contains an option to extend to 10 years. Council members Jalin Sead and Nicol Ayers abstained. 

“I will be a ‘no’ vote on this contract, and not because I don’t think you’ve done excellent work on it,” Niedzielski-Eichner said. “I think we would have been best served by finishing the strategic planning process before we went out to RFP. There are significant and interesting questions that you raised. I really appreciate, Ms. [Vanessa] Valadares, the amount of time you put into thinking about how collection works in the city. And I think that we have real opportunities to do things better. I personally feel like we would have been better served by making some more of those decisions before we committed to a contract.”

Niedzielski-Eichner was the only one to voice her reasons for voting against the contract. 

Vanessa Valadares, the city’s chief of Operations and Public Works, told the council she believed this contract was important and would help with  strategic plan efforts so the city could “get a price” for some of the ideas that come out of that plan.  

She also cited concerns over a company’s ability to put together a fleet of trucks in less than a year due to supply chain issues, which is why she said it was important to approve the contract now. 

The agreement puts the total annual cost for regular garbage collection at  $1.8 million. The annual cost for recycling is $2.4 million. Garbage collection includes the city’s Fourth Taxing District—although as part of the contract, Valadares said they’re going to explore moving to garbage collection services for most of the city. Recycling includes the whole city. The contract estimates that if citywide garbage collection were to go into effect in July 2027, it would cost an additional $411,074 annually. 

The  cost of operating the transfer station each year is $919,800. 

Council member Jim Frayer, who chairs the Public Works Committee and who was part of the advisory committee that selected the bid, said the new contract is “approximately a 6% decrease for the solid waste and recycling combined,” while the cost to operate the transfer station “is essentially the same as the current contract.” 

One of the reasons for this, Valadares said, is a move to standard carts for garbage collection, which will allow Win Waste to switch to collection trucks with a machine arm instead of having two to three employees pick up each can. They’re also eliminating the opt-out for garbage collection in the Fourth Taxing District, because residents have been opting out but still putting out garbage. 

“So, if you’re within the district, you’re going to be charged … whatever will be the fee,” she said. 

Valadares said the contract isn’t in opposition to the strategic plan, but rather, part of the process.

“This contract is really a milestone on the process of how we’re going to improve sustainable solid waste in the City of Norwalk,” she said. 

However, some sustainable initiatives–such as door-to-door compost collection–were not included in the contract. 

“One of the reasons why this is not part of this bid is that we are not there yet, and we thought that the price that that will generate for the composting today wouldn’t be worth (it) for the city, and we didn’t want to tie it up to the current contract,” Valadares said. 

She noted that currently, residents can bring their compost to one of three locations, and they are “still trying to increase those numbers.” Valadares said they’re hoping to do some of that analysis as part of the strategic planning process. 

“Should we be considering maybe a curb collection for food composting, as New York does?” she said. “We would like to do that as a separate bid.”

That would also allow for “some small haulers” to bid on that separately, which she said might make it more cost-effective.

Still, some council members voiced their support for the approach, as well as for the contract itself.

“Vanessa, first I’d like to thank you—you are always looking to do things better,” council member Barbara Smyth said. “You always look at the most efficient way to spend taxpayer dollars, and you really take that seriously. So I want to thank you for that commitment to our residents and to our taxpayers.”

Others, like Josh Goldstein, said they were looking forward to some of the potential options that could come out of this contract. 

“Citywide garbage collection is something that has been advocated for, not only by members of this council, but frankly… by residents for a very long time, and I think it’s important to note something that we want to make a reality,” he said.

Comments

3 responses to “Norwalk Common Council approves new waste management contract”

  1. John O’Neill

    Vanessa: Great Job – Keep up the good work. While not a perfect outcome, in my opinion a smart move.
    Not perfect, but these days we’ll take a win. Thanks Vanessa for your hard work!!
    Maybe the Feds can put Vanessa in charge of the Electric Vehicle Charging Station Roll-Out
    I believe the latest stats — 8 finished in last 3 years and only 499,992 to go to achieve Biden’s goal by 2030.
    (Yes, you read that correctly)

  2. Tysen Canevari

    You are so right John. Nora is the same one who said passing a blower ordinance will put the big blower manufactures on alert that Norwalk means business. She wants the city to waste close to a million dollars on electric backpack blowers that don’t do the job. Perhaps, she should have demanded the same due diligence of Shanahan and Frayer who pushed the ban through with no consultation of the people that use them. Also, has anyone seen anyone from the city using electric blowers? You guessed it, Not a one! This council needs a revamp. people run for election and quit and other abstain all the time when voting. Its a simple yes or no vote people!

  3. Becca Stoll

    I for one would love more options for compost drop-off or pick-up. When I rented in New Haven a community business called Peels N’ Wheels would send a bike messenger to pick up my bucket every week, and the compost was either sold back to customers or donated to a community garden. Composting is really easy once people make a habit of it. It could be scaled without much trouble to divert landfill waste. I think of all the rotted produce that we sort out when I volunteer at Person to Person and how much of it could be compost instead of landfill.

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