In an effort to lower the costs of garbage collection for some residents, the Montgomery County Council this week passed a bill that will encourage competative bidding on garbage collection contracts. The legislation affects the heavily populated lower area of the county where one company has held the contract for 11 years.
The area will be subdivided into nine subdistricts of different sizes, which refuse collection companies can bid on.
Currently, United Disposal collects garbage in that area under contract to the county at a cost of $7 million per year. Council president John L. Menke blamed the lack of garbage collection contract competition in past year on the size of the district.
Smaller subdistricts will allow more businesses, including smaller businesses, to compete for the contracts. Menke said such a competitive situation might cut the cost of the garbage service for that area by 1 to 3 million dollars.
"When we consider the overall cost to homeowners," Menke noted "the savings would be equivalent to 18 cents on the tax rate, if the competitive bidding saved us about $2 million on the collection service."
The nine subdivisions were divided along natural boundaries of highways and parks to insure that different companies would not end up collecting garbage on different sides of the same street. The entire district contains 68,000 housing units, and approximately 200,000 people.
"We get the benefits of the competition, but if we work it right with the subdistricts, we get the operations of a monopoly," Menke explained. "So you can have your cake and eat it too."
The garbage collectors themselves will be receiving benefits established by another bill which the council passed. All garbage collection companies bidding for the contract must offer their employees pension, health, sick leave, and vocation programs.
Negotiations between United Disposal, the agency presently under contract to the county, and the country executive will begin in the next few weeks. United Disposal could win contracts for the subdistricts if the company's prices are competitive. However, the county will begin asking for bids from other companies as well.
During the three hour legislative session of the council meeting, the council also passed a bill which will make it illegal to discriminate against mentally, emotionally or physically handicapped persons for employment, housing, or bank loan opportunities.
The bill, which called "long overdue," sets policies similiar to those in federal and state legislation and is intended to speed-up enforcement by placing more power in the hands of the local Commission of Humam Relations. "That will be a step forward," Menke commented.
Councilmember Elizabeth Scull commented during the meeting that she had talked with David Hornback, the state superintendent of education, on the subject of some 65 handicapped children from the county, who were rejected for state funded special education programs this year.
Scull said she was impressed with the state's "good intentions" in seeing that handicapped children received proper special education.
"Some of these children were requesting special placement in private institutions not because of their school needs but because of their after-school needs which could not be met by their families," said Scull. "It is clear to me that we will have to develop some after school programs for them so that they can attend suitable schools in the county."