By County Commissioner Al Higginbotham
In November 1996, my grown children were in elementary school. Technology, such as the iPhone or Blackberry, was years away. Few people had an email account, faxes were used regularly in business, GPS served primarily the military, Google and Facebook didn’t exist and the company that became MapQuest was just beginning to write the code required to publish maps on the Internet.
That same year, Hillsborough County awarded contracts to three
solid waste haulers, providing exclusive rights to both residential and
commercial services; an effective monopoly granted by Hillsborough County to three private companies.
Since the original agreement was signed, more than 15 years
ago, our contractors have generally met the requirements of their agreement. While my office still fields occasional complaints, from missed trash to damaged receptacles, both county staff and franchise employees respond quickly and attempt to remedy all complaints registered in our office.
The County Commission has extended the contract once and approved rate increases four times. The contract extension and rate increases were approved without an open, competitive bid.
The county staff prides itself on having negotiated competitively low rates for the residents of Hillsborough County. However, these low rates mask the lack of routine services provided in other communities in the Tampa Bay area. So… we get low rates but in return, we get fewer services and benefits than our neighbors in surrounding communities.
Some argue the existing system is working well and say we should negotiate and extend the agreement with the current providers.
But, the real question is, without an open and competitive bid process, how can we be sure we are getting the best deal for county residents and taxpayers?
If you are like me, you “price shop” your auto insurance rates every couple of years, even though you like your current agent. When you need new tires for the car or want to take a vacation, you compare the cost to the benefits. I recently spoke with people in my district who understand the
need to compare prices for prescription medications and the provisions in their Medicare options. I’m sure you check your retirement account and compare mortgage rates from various lenders. We all “price shop” on a daily basis to ensure we are getting the best value and stretching our dollar as far as possible.
What is wrong with expecting the same of your government?
Shopping price, or in government terms, conducting an open and competitive bid, ensures we are getting the benefits and services we need, at the best price. I believe the time has come for us to shop and compare prices on this contract in the coming year, since it was last “price shopped” more than 15 years ago.
On Dec. 14, your County Commission will hold a public workshop to consider issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP), which will provide an open, competitive bid for solid waste hauling services.
If you believe, as I do, that the best way to get the best deal is to regularly shop price, I encourage you to let us know by emailing us or attending the meeting.
If we don’t shop the price, we relinquish the opportunity to get the benefits and services we need at the best price, with perhaps additional savings, for county residents.
Al Higginbotham represents District 4, which includes the Bloomingdale, Valrico, Brandon, Lithia and Riverview areas.