At its regular meeting last night, (May 20), the San Marcos City Council approved unanimously a new five year contract with Texas Disposal Systems (TDS) for residential solid waste and recycling collection and disposal.
The new contract with TDS includes provisions for once a week residential solid waste collection, once a week curbside residential recycling collection, bi-monthly bulky item pickups with advance notice, six (6) neighborhood clean-ups, a downtown container pick up, city facilities collection, and special events.
Other contract provisions include having the CPI (Consumer Price Index) rate adjustment criteria include diesel fuel (Section 3.3.1), increased public education (Section 1.5.2.B), and additional garbage cart options (Section 1.3.1.A). Finally, the new contract allows for the implementation of single stream recycling service should it become available to TDS (Section 1.3.2.G). TDS representative Rick Froman assured the Council that “we can switch to single stream at any time in the contract.”
During Council discussion of the contract, Council member Kim Porterfield asked if it was common policy for council members to negotiate contracts on behalf of the city government. Mayor Narviaz said, “what has happened is not normal” and pointed out that council member conversations with TDS representatives were possible because the city did not seek RFPs (request For Proposals). Council member Chris Jones apologized if his meeting with TDS representatives appeared to be negotiations. In his judgment, his meeting was informational. Individually, council members Couch, Guerrero, Jones, and Thomaides had met with TDS representatives at different times.
The Council in separate but related action unanimously approved a new rate for residential solid waste and recycling and a change to once a week garbage collection. The new rate for curbside collection and residential garbage and recyclables is $13.98 per customer per month for once a week garbage and recycling and are effective July 1 of this year.
The Council removed from the table and then unanimously approved a contract with Perfect Finish Commercial Cleaning for janitorial services for city facilities. In the discussion before the council vote, city staff informed the Council that it had two choices: approve the contract or reject all bids and direct staff to re-bid the contract. Some council members expressed concern with the disparity in cost between the lowest and highest vendor bids and given such disparity expressed concern about the lowest bidder’s ability to provide the service at the bid amount. City Manager Rick Menchaca said a scenario where the lowest bidder was 30% less than the next highest bidder would prompt additional due diligence but such was not the case here. City staff expressed confidence in the ability of the lowest bidder to fulfill the terms of the contract at the bid amount stated.
After a city staff presentation by Laurie Anderson, Mike Sturm, and Rosie Vela and after much discussion by city council and city staff, the Council unanimously tabled approval of the contracts for the establishment of a wireless (WIFI) mesh network in San Marcos until its first regular meeting in June.
Assistant City Manager Anderson led off the staff briefing by reviewing the history of bringing WIFI to our city. In response to the city issuing an RFP on July 1, 2007, nine (9) proposals were submitted — three (3) for public-private partnerships and six (6) for an alternative business model (ABM). A city committee consisting of Tom Taggert, Bob Higgs, Howard Williams, Mike Sturm, and Rosie Vela and attended at times by Laurie Anderson and Colette Jamison, recommended the adoption of an ABM.
The committee and the city staff in general recommended that the Council approve multiple contracts in order to establish WIFI here. Sturm presented the outline of the proposed contracts. Federal Signal Corporation would be the systems integrator and provide network equipment. As such, the company would develop a detail design review and design and build the network. Blue Moon Solutions, Inc. would be a subcontractor to Federal Signal, would serve as the City’s network operator at risk ( meaning no payment would be guaranteed to it) and would market the network. As such, Blue Moon would install and test the network, provide low risk operation and services to all stakeholders, contract with local providers for back-haul services, sell the network, make upgrade recommendations, manage operation expenses, and participate in a Management Committee.
The City of San Marcos (the City) would be the owner and user of the network, minimize operation cost and would partner in network marketing. As such, the City would assist with the testing of the network, provide access to city fiber for back-haul, use the network to produce cost savings and participate in a Management Committee.
Since the City is not relying on the network to have an excess of income over expenditure, the City will be funding the cost for WIFI from anticipated budget savings arising from City WIFI use. Sturm said that the estimated City savings from switching to WIFI would be $601,000 per year. The savings are broken down as follows: $38,000 in Public Safety, $137,000 in Telecommunications Costs, $26,000 from Wireless Meter Reading, and $400,000 from more efficient mobile work processes.
Sturm explained that other potential benefits of having a WIFI network were improved disaster response and recovery, increased public safety presence, economic development advantages, digital inclusion, and higher broadband penetration.
Rosie Vela, City Finance Director, said the cost of WIFI would be $3.5 million. The City would need to make fourteen (14) lease payments, $293,000 per payment. There would be a 3.61% interest rate for seven (7) years. Vela said the “only strategy we know of” to cover costs of WIFI is budget line reductions.
During Council discussion, Council member Jones expressed concern that budget savings would be insufficient to cover city WIFI costs. City Manager Menchaca said in the case, the city would cut other budget items barring extraordinary circumstances. The city manager requested additional time to review all the issues relating to bringing WIFI to San Marcos.
Mayor Narvaiz asked council members and local Internet service providers to send all questions in writing concerning the proposed WIFI contracts to the city manager.
On a different matter, the Council directed city staff to have discussions with the Hays County government concerning the establishment of a commemorative monument at the intersection of LBJ and MLK Streets. It seems that San Marcos is the only city in the United States to have an intersection of those named streets.
The Council directed staff to move forward on the citizen energy survey as part of the city’s Sustainability/Green Energy initiative so the survey can be conducted during the fall semester at Texas State.
Finally, the Council unanimously approved amending the budget to fund the establishment and operation of a low power radio station. The city government recently received FCC approval for such a station. The station will be 92.5 on your FM dial. the monies for the radio station are coming from the General Fund, the Water/Waste water Fund, and the Electric Utility Fund.
The next regular meeting of the city council is
scheduled for 3 June 2008 at 7:00 pm.
By ED MIHALKANIN, Ph. D