FREE MARKET CAPITALISM DIED ON THE ALTAR OF THE GREATER GOOD TODAY…
WASTE MANAGEMENT MADE THE COUNTY AN OFFER THAT IT COULDN’T REFUSE, AT LEAST ONE SMALL COMPETITOR WILL SLEEP WITH THE FISHES AND HORSES EVERYWHERE RAN FOR THEIR LIVES.
STOREY COUNTY IS ONE OF THE ONLY COUNTIES, IF NOT THE ONLY COUNTY, IN NEVADA THAT DOES NOT HAVE AN “OPIOID CRISIS” OR PROBLEMS IN THAT AREA….GOOD FOR US!
BON VOYAGE TO CHERIE NEVIN WHO LEAVES STOREY COUNTY FOR WASHINGTON STATE AND A NEW LIFE…IT WAS A PLEASURE WORKING WITH YOU CHERIE!
The staff updates were covered in Austin’s summary so I won’t comment on those.
I’m going to start with the agenda item approving the contract with Waste Management for the County and all of its residents except for the Canyon GID. Commissioner, brothel owner, TRI principal, former BLOCKCHAINS worker, aspiring hemp grower and new best friend to the city of Fernley Lance Gilman recused himself.
SIDENOTE– Wonder why Lance recused himself. Does he own garbage too?
It was approved by Commission Chair Marshall McBride and Commissioner Jay Carmona. You can see the list of benefits and concessions HERE.
This contract does not allow any other operators to do business in Storey County for waste pickup of commercial/household, C&D ( construction and debris) materials and paid recycling. One of the concessions was that it would allow the few recyclers currently operating only at TRI to continue to pick up “clean” recycling but they will not be able to charge for this service or charge for their bins. They can only pick up the recycling and haul it to their recycling centers for free.
There was a lively public comment session mostly from those smaller recyclers saying that since the price of recycling materials fluctuates that they can not continue to have a profitable business in Storey County without the steady revenue of service and bin fees. They were granted a license to do business in Storey County, currently operate here and charge for services. So this limitation would negatively impact their businesses.
The recyclers have invested in the infrastructure here. They requested that the County go back to the table to negotiate an agreement that will be beneficial for all parties. They are only asking to do business at TRI. They also stated that since this contract was never put out to bid that they did not have the opportunity to bid for that business or any other business in Storey County. That the county is essentially granting a monopoly to WM and picking winners and losers in this case.
One of the speakers told the Commission that the wording of the WM contract needs to be looked at carefully. That the Reno and Sparks WM agreement is not as restrictive to competitors as far as the types of recycling that can be picked up by them and what they can charge. It includes all types including C&D. As a result, recyclers are encouraged to do business there and make it easy for people to recycle.
Carson City put out an RFB for their waste services and it saved their residents’ money. One of the speakers asked that the Commission do an impact statement on the businesses affected and noted that the customers that they serve are happy with their service.
The representative from Waste Management said that they have been in Storey County for many years and have made significant investments in infrastructure here. They have been responsive to the county’s needs and requests in this new contract which in some areas are a loss to them but they will sustain it for the benefit of the other elements of the contract. He noted that the word “monopoly” used to describe their business is a negative term meaning restriction of trade. That is not the case with this contract. He talked about how the mixing of commercial waste and recycling impacts their business ( ie, TRI companies putting their commercial refuse into the recyclers bins to avoid paying WM)
County manager Austin Osborn responded to many of these questions by saying that the contract with Waste Management meets the unique needs of Storey County. That due to our small pool of customers there is no economy of scale. Our challenging topography and winter weather in VC and the Highlands also makes it difficult to find a service provider willing to do it. Waste Management has invested considerably in its Storey County infrastructure and has also made many concessions to accommodate our unique circumstances. There is no mandatory requirement that all residents must have service from WM…as in Reno. They are not charging the school district for services. There is no requirement to pay for the 96-gallon bin. There are free days at the transfer stations and senior discounts. All of these things and more are due to WM size and ability to absorb certain “losses” in Storey County and spread it across their business. WM needs to be able to offset those losses and by allowing the other recyclers to compete they would not be able to do that.
Austin feels that the current provision in the agreement which allows the existing recyclers at TRIC to pick up the recycling for free and then charge for it when they take it to processors is “a free-market solution”.
Marshall said that they should have put it out to bid 18 months ago but didn’t so it’s too late now. WM has bargained in good faith and the County got everything that it wanted. Since the agreement has already been made public and all of the services and fees that WM has agreed to are also public it’s not a level playing field for WM to open this up for bid now.
Jay asked the recyclers why their businesses will go out of business under this agreement. Why are they totally dependent on Storey County and could they raise prices elsewhere to make up for the lost revenues under the agreement.
The response was that the businesses also operate elsewhere but that the fee restrictions would cause them to leave Storey County and go out of business here. As for raising prices elsewhere to make up for lost revenues…. the fixed costs of service and bins are steady as are the fees but the price of recycling, which they sell, fluctuates so their business model is dependent on service fees to be stable.
Jay also asked if the companies have commercial services. The answer was that yes some do but that that they have not been allowed to bid for that business in Storey County. To which Jay responded that if they had made an investment in Storey County wouldn’t they want an agreement to protect that investment.
SIDENOTE– I agree that our small customer pool and the challenges of the Comstock are barriers for many of our service providers to do business up here. I agree that the WM deal for me as a customer looks good. But, I still have to wonder how allowing a small bit of competition in a small area of business in the vast flatlands of TRI that HAS a large pool is going to financially ruin the giant mastodon ( another M word like monopoly) that is Waste Management.
In a nutshell, the County has helped WM to put competitors at a significant disadvantage likely leading to exit from this marketplace. If that’s not a restraint of trade I don’t know what is. Oh, wait…..those companies can do business for free if they want to. That’s the loophole. Clever. I smell another court case.
What if the County decided to give a no-bid exclusive contract to Starbucks to operate in Storey County because they are big and have everything we would want. Oh wait, what about the Roasting House? Well…they can stay open but they and other businesses can’t serve anything but plain ole drip Folgers coffee with coffee-mate….and give it away for free. If they can’t absorb the loss by selling more waffles and go out of business as a result…..then that is their problem for being so small and so dependent on Storey County for their profitability. Bye-Bye.
THAT’S what we’re talking about here.
These recycling companies have actual business licenses to operate in Storey County. They have been operating in Storey County with a business model adapted to Storey County. They have satisfied customers at TRIC. Now Storey County GOVERNMENT has taken a source of revenue away from them. This will likely remove an option for those businesses at TRIC to chose who to do business with and people will lose jobs.
By not bothering to put this out to bid, even for just the recycling, the County DID pick winners and losers….they assumed that the biggest would be the best and just went with it instead of testing the market. They didn’t even think that there might be other options. At the very least they should have known to separate the recycling totally from the WM contract like the other cities have done.
Regardless, the Commissioners invoked the oft used GOVERNMENT excuse of the “greater good” to rationalize the further erosion of our choices and options as residents/customers. Today it’s TRIC and recycling……what’s it going to be tomorrow? I have some guesses.
But I digress…..
The next interesting item was the decision to remain or withdraw from the Federal case against the Opioid manufacturers. The unanimous decision was to withdraw.
The bottom line here is that based on what Sheriff Antinoro and Chief Nevin said at the meeting we have no problem here that has cost us anything to deal with. Arrests aren’t up, ambulance/emergency response calls haven’t increased. Sheriff Antinoro said that in fact the folks he knows who have pain issues were looking forward to the legalization of marijuana as the option to use instead of opioid medications.
The lawyers representing the State of Nevada in its claim against the opioid makers congratulated Storey County and said that our surrounding counties and most rural Nevada Counties have serious issues. We are lucky not to have them. That if we want to join the States case that it can be done at a later time.
Lastly, Community Services Manager, Cherie Nevin is leaving her job at the end of November and going to Washington State for a new job in Emergency Management and a new life.
I have worked with Cherie and I have always been impressed with her knowledge, skills, and commitment to her job and to the people she serves. She leaves a lasting legacy and a GIANT hole to fill. Best wishes to you Cherie!