NORWALK, Conn. – City Carting won the right to pick up Norwalk's garbage when the Common Council Tuesday allowed the city to enter into a 10-year contract with the company.
The vote, as predicted by council member Michael Geake (U-District B), was 9 to 6. All of the Republicans, most of whom had been silent through the meeting, voted for the contract, which includes extending through 2023 City Carting's contracts for recycling and for handling the transfer station. They were joined in the vote for approval by Geake and council member Bruce Kimmel (D-District D).
Council member Anna Duleep (D-At Large) pointed out that the council had given more information in the night's agenda to the proposal for a $6,500 grant from the state library than it had to the 10-year contract with City Carting. Three short paragraphs described the terms the council was agreeing to, she said.
Democratic Town Committee chair Amanda Brown made a similar point during the public hearing. "Without a contract you have not read or seen how can you vote yes for it?" she asked.
Geake said before the meeting that contracts are never presented to the council when a bid is up for consideration. "Until we approve a bid, the law department doesn't do a contract," he said. "The law department tailors a contract to what the council has approved, and any stipulations we put to it."
The finished contract does not come back to the council for a vote, he said.
Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord said the numbers that were presented to the council will not change. But, he said, the council can cancel the contract at any time without a penalty.
The contract contains three standard clauses, he said, including a "termination for convenience," meaning the city can cancel it without "really" giving a reason. Also, "Even if we have a 10-year contract, the city can next year in the budget process decide that they don't want to fund the contract for garbage collection," he said.
City officials estimate outsourcing garbage collection to City Carting will save the city $17 million over its term.
Council member Carvin Hilliard (D-District B) was among those complaining about the smell at City Carting's Meadow Street facility, although Alvord said the city's garbage will not go there. Hilliard and others said the city has missed opportunities to get City Carting to clean up its act; and Hilliard said there are costs that are not factored into the discussion. He said residents of the area have health problems they say are caused or made worse by the facility, and then go to Norwalk Hospital.
"What affects South Norwalk affects the whole city," he said. "We should be asking them what are they going to do about Meadow Street. We're rewarding them and, in my opinion, they are not doing well."
Editor's Note: This story has been modified from its original version to better reflect the circumstances of the vote.