Watts presses Alvord on ‘$273K no-bid contract’ with City Carting

NORWALK, Conn. – What David Watts called a “$273,000 no-bid contract to City Carting” raised the District A councilman’s eyebrows at Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting.

The money will go to buy three new trash compactors at the Norwalk transfer station, Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord said under questioning from Watts. It’s an amendment to City Carting’s existing contract to run the transfer station, Alvord said, something not unusual in Norwalk government.

“The No. 1 compacter has been broken for eight months,” Alvord said. “We have no expertise to repair it. There are very few people that have expertise in these types of thing. City Carting fortunately has buying power with the manufacturers and the expertise to do this. So this is going to be the most economically feasible way for the city to replace those compactors.”

Watts said he hadn’t been able to get his “head around” this concept at the Public Works Committee meeting and he needed more explanation. “What was the criteria for putting this $273,000 no-bid contract on there without shopping around?” he asked.

“Shopping around would have cost the city another year and probably anywhere from 50 to 100 percent more to do it that way,” Alvord said.

“You’re saying the city doesn’t have the expertise and there is no other third party or anybody that you could have consulted with?” Watts asked.

“We would have to have hired a consulting engineering firm to develop a bid package that would take us anywhere from four to six months and probably $25,000 to $30,000,” Alvord replied. “Then the bid package would get put out. The manufacturers would understand that we’re a customer that’s going to buy these compactors once every 35 years, so we would have no buying leverage whatsoever. Maybe a year and a half from now the compactors would get replaced at significantly more cost than what City Carting is able to do it for.”

“Do you think that in the future the city will have the capability to actually put it out for competitive bid? Because you’re saying we don’t have the expertise, you would have to get a consultant, it’s just easier to issue a $273,000 no-bid contract to City Carting?” Watts asked.

“It’s more economically feasible and timely for the city to do it the way we propose,” Alvord said.

“I just think that in the future when we put out this amount of money we should look at it and see about putting it out to competitive bid because to issue that amount of money without shopping around is probably not the best deal for the city,” Watts said, relenting. “Just raises a red flag. Probably not your fault. You’re a good man, I just think that in the future we need to try to do better.”

Public Works Committee Chairman David McCarthy (R-District E) took over, getting Alvord to say that the compactors dated to 1982. That’s 32 years, although the compactors are designed to last 25, Alvord said.

“Would it be economically reasonable to invest in a skill set so we could do this on a more frequent basis?” McCarthy asked.

“No,” Alvord said.

Finance Committee Chairman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) asked Alvord if it would be correct to say that the city is saving $100,000 by amending the contract with City Carting.

“We haven’t done a precise estimate to that point, but given City Carting’s buying power with these companies, my belief would be it would be somewhere in that range,” Alvord said.

The amendment was approved unanimously.


21 responses to “Watts presses Alvord on ‘$273K no-bid contract’ with City Carting”

  1. Oldtimer

    Watts is right to question a no-bid deal with City Carting. Doesn’t the contract with City Carting greatly reduce the amount of trash handled by the City transfer station ? Doesn’t most go to Meadow St ? Do we need three new compactors at Meadow St. ?
    The council was wrong to approve spending that much money without more real information beyond Alvord’s off-the-cuff projections. One of three compactors has been not working for eight months, and they have managed nicely without it, and in eight months they couldn’t find anybody to fix it ? Did they look ? The only solution Alvord can come up with is a no-bid deal with City Carting to replace all three compactors for $273,000 ? Alvord should be ashamed of himself. He gets well paid for his skills as an engineer(?) and he publicly admits his dept has “no expertise” to fix a compactor and can’t find anyone who has. Further, he admits he could not prepare a bid package without hiring another engineer to write the bid package ? Why not just take the old model numbers and call a few manufacturers ? His relationship with City Carting sounds a lot too close. A few minutes on the internet quickly brings up companies that manufacture and offer repair service on industrial compactors and offer free quotes on new and rebuilt equipment. If Alvord were to give Watts the exact model numbers of the old compactors and a couple of hours, I’ll bet Watts can come up with much better prices than $273,000. Any secretary in the DPW, could probably do the same thing in an hour or so, might even find somebody to repair the broken one.

  2. Betsy Wrenn

    Thank you, David Watts. You would think a transfer station would plan for the inevitable replacement of major pieces of equipment. The compactor life expectancy is 25 years. The compactor is 32 years old, and has been broken for 8 months. How did this suddenly become so urgent, that there’s no time to research or negotiate, just close our eyes and pay? Maybe we don’t even need it, since 8 months passed without a peep.

  3. Oldtimer

    If the City transfer station was still taking all the trash from City trucks, private carters, and residents who bring in their own trash, then, maybe, there might be a need to replace or repair the one they have done without for eight months. Suddenly deciding to buy three new ones from CITY CARTING for $273,000, without any bidding just doesn’t smell right. In fact it smells more like a CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY than a proper way to spend taxpayer money.

  4. Piberman

    The real story here is that apparently City managers do not set up yearly budget provisions for complex major equipment replacement and plan ahead. Standard practice elsewhere both in public and private venues. So Norwalk is forced to seek out sole source non-competitive bids. No doubt an extra large yearly bonus for managerial excellence is merited here. In the best Norwalk tradition. Than you Mr Watts. Not every Council member is asleep. Why did the Council Finance Chief not catch this one ?

  5. Don’t Panic

    I think its very interesting that we are paying City Carting to run our transfer station. I was not aware that in addition to outsourcing the garbage pickup, we have also outsourced this resource. As long as we are lining up three expensive machines, perhaps we can negotiate for more hours on the weekends, when residents are actually around and need access.
    Does anyone know if the budget for this fiscal year included appropriations for these machines?

  6. Peter Parker

    This is just another example of how Hal Alvord circumvents the system, with absolutely no regard for rules and regulation unless it suits his purpose. The City should follow the bid process in every situation without exception. The bid process is in place for many reasons, most importantly to save money, prevent any improprieties, or kickbacks. Mr. Alvrod blatantly disregards the rules, and is never held accountable. He is detrimental to the City, its wellbeing, and its progress. When will Mayor Rilling finally hold Alvord accountable for his actions?

  7. LWitherspoon

    David Watts and Oldtimer love to throw mud at City Carting, probably because they’re still angry about the deal to outsource garbage collection in Norwalk.
    For those who don’t remember, that controversy came down to outsourcing garbage collection and saving something like $1 million per year, or not outsourcing it so that eight Union guys wouldn’t be transferred to a different City department where their pay was $8,000 per year lower.
    During the debate Watts as well as oldtimer irresponsibly used words like “criminal conspiracy”, seen again above. Naturally they supplied about as much evidence as Travis Simms did recently in support of his allegation of ‘illegal activity’ at SoNoCC.
    Now we have a new Democratic mayor who promised during the campaign to closely review the City Carting contract to determine whether or not the savings were real. What were the results of that review?

  8. Don’t Panic

    Those savings were supposed to be a result of decreased workers comp claims. Workers were getting hurt doing speedy pickups because the city insisted that they get all the trash off the streets in few hours, then they were maligned by the public for not working a full day.
    Were those savings ever realized?

  9. Oldtimer

    Are you defending Alvord bypassing the purchasing dept, and protocal, to now ask for $273,000 to buy three new compactors from CITY CARTING, with no bids, and no due diligence ? I would be ashamed, in his position, to tell the council I did not have the expertise to get a compactor fixed and therefore, needed to buy three new ones. Remember, these are for a transfer station that no longer takes most of our trash. He didn’t even offer any facts to justify a need, much less a need to go no-bid. I stick by the statement that something smells bad, very bad. With the manufacturer’s name and model numbers off the old unit, it would take a phone call to get a quote, and I’ll bet it won’t come anywhere near this amount. Try it yourself before you criticize Watts and me for questioning Alvord’s latest proposal. Anytime anybody asks for that much money to buy anything without going through purchasing, Watts should not be the only one asking why.

  10. Suzanne

    “The amendment was approved unanimously.” The epitaph for the City of Norwalk Department of Public Works. I recently read in a comment on NON that we should not all be so hard on Mr. Alvord: he asks for certain budgetary items year after year and the City won’t fund them. I wonder why with the kind of nonsense described in this article? (Rhetorical question.) Is anyone watching the store? (Real query.) If the process to get bids for purchasing these items is as convoluted as Mr. Alvord described them, then the entire city needs a brain transplant. Others are mentioning common sense ideas like: looking up vendors on the Internet or the yellow pages (I know, archaic.) Finding a repair person for the equipment while bids are solicited. Ensuring that uniform bid practices are used and enforced which, as described in comments above, are standard in business and government. (Why couldn’t there be a query on the model number and make of the compactors and evaluation of the latest like products with a 25 year life span?) That Mr. McCarthy would prompt Mr. Alvord to further the mission of this meeting, to get the compactors using a no-bid process, is irresponsible.

  11. LWitherspoon

    During the debate surrounding garbage outsourcing you made a lot of wild statements which were unsupported by fact. How do I know that this isn’t more of the same?
    Please share with us your evidence that this purchase which was approved unanimously by every member of the Common Council took place with “no due diligence” by any City employee or member of the Common Council’s finance committee. Also, since you’re so confident that finding a better deal is easy, I challenge you to do it. Imagine how ridiculous you can make Hal Alvord look when you publish your findings in NoN! Since it’s so simple, please get it done quickly, so that David Watts can introduce your cheaper alternative for Council approval before the new equipment is purchased.
    I applaud Council members who look for ways to save our tax dollars, but there are three reasons why I’m highly dubious that saving money is Watts’s prime motivator here:
    1) We never see any other proposals from David Watts for saving taxpayers money. He does however have a lot of ideas for new ways of spending taxpayer funds.
    2) David Watts appears to pay attention only to proposals that could lead to less money paid to municipal employee union members.
    3) There is lingering bad blood between Hal Alvord and David Watts over the outsourcing of garbage collection. In an attempt to curry favor with Local 2405, Watts attempted to stop the outsourcing of garbage collection because it would lead to eight Union guys being reassigned to a different department at lower pay. Watts failed.
    The Mayor promised during the campaign to do a thorough review of the contract to outsource garbage collection to verify that the financial benefits were real. How’s that review coming and when will we know the results? Could it be that the savings are real, and the contract with City Carting won’t be cancelled, so the only recourse that you and Mr. Watts have is to accuse Mr. Alvord of ‘criminal conspiracy’ on these pages without presenting any supporting evidence?

  12. Bruce Kimmel

    Mr. Berman: The money for the compactors was approved a year ago when we crafted the current capital budget. Moreover, the capital budget goes through the Planning Committee, not the Finance Committee. Not sure it makes financial sense to have an expert on the city staff just to cover a once every thirty five years expense. Enough already.

  13. Non partisan

    The cities web site indicates there are 6 civil engineers working for the department of public works. it is their job to prepair bid documents, and oversee capital projects. That is what an engineer does
    It is incomprehensible that this was not done, and even more incredible that the coumcil appropriation was made.
    It would be far more appropriate for the DPW to put together a bid package and have city carting submit their bid using their buying power.

    Anything short of this is lazy at best. at worst it stinks worse than the refuse put into the compactor.

  14. Oldtimer

    “you made a lot of wild statements which were unsupported by fact.” ? That sounds an awful lot like you are calling me a liar. Could you possibly come up with an example ? I do not make statements not supported by fact. I do sometimes state opinion, clearly indicated as opinion, but statements unsupported by fact ? Never happen.
    As to why don’t I do the research for Watts for the pleasure of being able to make him look foolish. I prefer to leave that to Mr Watts. It is certainly possible there is a need to repair or replace a compactor. Without real numbers on the quantity being compacted every day, that is impossible to determine, but we all know that number should be much lower than it used to be when that transfer station was taking all of our trash and a lot from private carters. It is possible one compactor is all they need now, not three. Again, without real numbers, nobody knows. How many truckloads (containers) are shipped each day or each week ?
    I look forward to you backing up your claim about my wild statements, unsupported by fact. Have a nice day.

  15. Oldtimer

    Talk about “wild statements which were unsupported by fact”, four days ago LWitherspoon made a statement that I made wild statements unsupported by fact during the discussion on outsourcing trash collection. I called him/her on HIS/HER wild statement unsupported by fact because, in effect, he/she was using a lot of words to call me a liar. I asked if he/she could possibly show an example. In four days he/she has not been able to find an example and post it. If he/she has an class at all, he/she will find time to post an apology. It would be the right thing to do, but I will not hold my breath waiting.

  16. LWitherspoon

    Methinks you doth protest too much. Who said anything about you lying? That you jump to defend yourself from an accusation that nobody made is very interesting, rather amusing, and perhaps even a hair incriminating. Such behavior is more appropriate to a guilty party on a cheesy TV crime drama.
    There are plenty of examples of wild statements you’ve made which were unsupported by fact. In the interests of brevity I will list just a few. You stated that you believed City employees and elected officials who favored outsourcing garbage were being paid off. Any facts ever come to light in support of that statement you made? You stated that City Carting would be using the same exact trucks to pick up garbage and recycling at the same time, instead of different trucks for each. Any facts to support that statement you made? Did it come true? And above you state that the purchase of new compactors smells “bad, very bad.” You further stated that it would be extremely easy to find a better deal, and that you were willing to bet it would be possible. Yet when challenged to back up these statements, all of a sudden you folded like a two-dollar suitcase. Apparently finding a much better deal was not a simple matter of opening a phone book and making a call, for you or for Mr. Watts.
    So all of these statements made by you, or “opinions” if that’s what you prefer to call them, were unsupported by fact. I’m sorry if it upsets you when I point this out, but it’s true. Have a nice day.

  17. Oldtimer

    Since you don’t seem to understand the difference between fact and opinion, I don’t believe any useful purpose will be served by continuing this discussion. I stick to my opinion that a no-bid deal to spend $273,000 on three new compactors for a transfer station that no longer handles most of our trash and without any data about how much use these machines will get, is, at best, poor use of taxpayer money, if not something much worse. Alvord’s arguments for spending that kind of money in violation of the City charter section on purchasing do not hold water.

  18. LWitherspoon

    Calling your statements “opinions” may or may not help you avoid being sued for libel, but no amount of rhetorical cleverness will change the fact that you consistently make statements which are unsupported by fact. Most people who state opinions back them up with the facts on which those opinions are based. I wonder why you don’t.
    Above you state: “With the manufacturer’s name and model numbers off the old unit, it would take a phone call to get a quote, and I’ll bet it won’t come anywhere near this amount.”
    Sounds like a rather confident statement to me – one that you scurried away from when challenged to substantiate it. I wonder why. Could it be that your desire to slime your political enemies exceeds your desire to make truthful, well-supported statements?

  19. Oldtimer

    Political enemies ? I don’t have political enemies. I have no role in Norwalk politics beyond observer. As such, I have opinions, most based on more fact than I intend to share with you. On some issues, outsourcing being a prime example, I did a bit of research and discovered a prime mover in City Carting’s Norwalk operation has a lot of history in the carting (trash) industry and is not allowed to take any part in a contract City Carting got with Westchester County because of that history. NY State has law requiring public entities, such as municipalities, counties, etc. to investigate bidders for public business for connections with organized crime. Westchester insisted this person’s name be removed from any contract with the county, and he be kept away from any operations in the county, as a condition of a contract with City carting. I suggested the City of Norwalk should do the same kind of screening rather than jump into business with the wrong people and then mayor Moccia took strong exception. The person’s name I was concerned about is Joseph Fiorillo, jr and he runs the Norwalk operation for City Carting and is a partner in the corporation (Meadow Street Partners)that owns the property. (was at that time) Don’t take my word for anything, do a little online research of your own. He lives in Purchase, N.Y. and was in his 60’s at that time. Have you seen any real evidence of the millions being saved by outsourcing ?

    Editor’s note: Here is the link to the story about City Carting and Westchester. We have written about this in the past.

  20. Oldtimer

    To refresh your memory, here is the opening paragraph from an HOUR story on City Carting contracts:

    “City Carting & Recycling, Inc., must furnish all “material, equipment and machinery,” as part of its newly signed 10-year, $12.1 million agreement with the city of Norwalk to haul residents’ garbage.”
    Now, Alvord requested and the council approved $273,000 to replace compactors. I don’t expect even you to argue compactors are not machinery.
    Any comment ?

  21. LWitherspoon

    You asked, “Have I seen any real evidence of the millions being saved by outsourcing?”
    I suppose you will now claim that an article in NoN is not real, nor are the details provided by Bob Barron, who is part of the City administration which is led by Mayor Rilling. I ask again – Mayor Rilling said during his campaign that he would review the contract closely to see if the savings were real. When we will learn the results of that review? Or is the review by Mr. Barron what Mayor Rilling promised?
    With respect to the compactor, you’d clearly like to believe that you’ve uncovered some big irregularity. Except that the Hour refers to an “agreement with the city of Norwalk to HAUL residents’ garbage.” While I am not an expert in waste management, I do believe compactors are stationary machinery not used for hauling. Of course you won’t accept that, and it doesn’t matter because what you’d really need to do to answer the question you asked is review the contract. It would be simple to ask your friend the Mayor to provide a copy, and you could answer your own question, unless of course the Mayor is now part of the grand conspiracy you like to weave with your many statements which are never supported by fact. Something tells me though that you aren’t actually interested in answers. You’d rather just attack anything that isn’t in the favor of municipal employee unions.

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