Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Slidell, Sulphur Lower Garbage Rates; Kenner Residents Not So Lucky Due To Mike Yenni



Last night, the Slidell City Council authorized Mayor Freddy Drennan to sign off on a new garbage contract that reduces residential rates by $.50 per month. The new rate will clock in at $18.81 per month. The city currently receives twice-weekly service and recycling.

In May, the City of Sulphur approved a new trash collection contract that reduced residential rates by $2.50 per month. The new rate is $14.39 per month for 1x weekly pickup and does not include curbside recycling.

Thanks to Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni and his renewal of the City’s trash contract in 2012 with Ramelli (a campaign contributor to Yenni) without putting the contract out for competitive bid, there are no reductions in sight for Kenner residents.

In June 2012, even the Times-Picayune’s Editorial Board, which foolishly endorsed Yenni not once but twice, blasted his handling of the Ramelli extension. They called Yenni’s claims that Kenner might jeopardize its relationship with Ramelli if the City sought new bids “bogus”.

"Kenner residents are paying less per month than their counterparts in unincorporated Jefferson Parish, New Orleans and other metro area localities. But they are reportedly paying more than some local communities, including Westwego and St. Charles Parish. That suggests that a better price could be available.

Mayor Yenni argued that the city risked losing Ramelli's competitive price if it sought proposals from other companies. That's bogus. Kenner could have tested the market and agreed to renew the existing contract only if a better offer didn't come along. And in almost every case, local governments that have opened professional contracts to competition in recent years have saved money.

Indeed, when Kenner in 2010 opened its auditing contract for competition, the city's annual cost dropped 19 percent."

In addition, despite a stipulation in the contract to the contrary, the City continues to pay Ramelli hundreds of thousands in “Fuel Adjustments” that began in 2008, less than 1 year after Ramelli began picking up Kenner’s trash.

Ramelli also illegally operated for over a year without a performance bond, which was also part of their original contract. This discrepancy was only caught after then City Attorney Keith Conley reread the contract when Ramelli asked for the fuel adjustment payments.

This could have cost the City of Kenner millions if Ramelli had walked away from the contract. 

At the time, then Council President Joe Stagni said, "This is one of the biggest and most important contracts we have. To not have a performance bond is not a simple oversight. It put the city's finances at risk."

Why Conley also didn’t note the illegal “Fuel Adjustments” is a subject of debate.  

Then Mayor Ed Muniz (and CAO Mike Yenni) took no action against Ramelli’s illegal operation – no fines, no sanctions, nothing. They simply told Ramelli that, now that you’re caught, you need to fix things.

Kenner residents shouldn’t expect any further scrutiny into Ramelli’s affairs. The company contributed $1,000 to then District 4 and current incoming Councilwoman-At-Large Maria DeFranchesch; $300 each to incoming District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur and District 5 Councilman Dominick Impastato; and $5,000 to Yenni.

“BEST CONTRACT IN THE REGION”

Currently, Kenner residents pay about $12 per month for 2x weekly pickup (whether they need it or not) and curbside recycling is available through another company for an additional $2.50 per week fee. In addition, Kenner residents also pay a property tax millage for trash pickup.

Yenni failed to include curbside recycling in the contract extension with Ramelli and has instead opted for recycling bins scattered across the city for residents to use. In addition to the added inconvenience, Kenner also is forced to pay Ramelli to pickup the recycled material. 

Last year, Kenner moved $40,000 from the Code Enforcement Department's Demolition fund to pay for recycling. 

If you choose to pay for curbside recycling, a Kenner resident’s monthly fee for trash collection would range from $22 – 24.50, or as much as 30% higher than Slidell’s new agreement, without factoring in the property tax.


At a Mayoral Debate in March 2014 sponsored by Nola.com, Yenni said, "We have the best garbage contract in the region."  

Obviously, the numbers don’t support his claims.

The City of Gretna is currently working on a new trash collection contract that will lower resident’s rates to $14.50 per month, including curbside recycling.

St. Charles Parish, with a population of 52,780 and a population density of 186 people per square mile, pays $9.75 per month per residence.

St. John the Baptist Parish residents pay $11.60 per month. St. John has a population of 45,924 with a population density of 163.75 people per square mile.

Slidell has a population of 27,000 and their population density is 1,828.9 people per square mile. As mentioned, Slidell’s new trash collection rate is $18.81 per month including curbside recycling.

Kenner, with a population of 66,000 and a population density of 4,659 people per square mile, dwarfs these other areas and, logically, should pay significantly less since the population is denser meaning that there are lower pickup costs for the collector. Ramelli can use less trucks and manpower to cover more houses.

Obviously, that overhead savings isn’t being returned to Kenner residents in the form of lower monthly bills.

PROMISES MADE, PROMISES BROKEN


Per the original 2007 contract with Ramelli, Kenner residents were supposed to receive new, 96-gallon containers beginning on October 29th, 2007. The entire city was supposed to have their old containers replaced during the nextgarbage pickup cycle.

"Ramelli plans to provide the burgundy and white containers to all residents starting on October 29 who are on the Monday/Thursday pickup route. In case delivery to all residents is not completed on Monday, the replacement will continue on Thursday - the route's second pickup day.

This same procedure will be used to continue delivering new containers to residents who have a Tuesday/Friday pickup and a Wednesday/Saturday pickup route until all the new containers are distributed throughout Kenner."

While some residents have received new containers, after 7 years, over 40% of the city still uses old Waste Management trash containers that were distributed before Hurricane Katrina.

I actually called Ramelli today to request a replacement for my cracked, per-Katrina, Waste Management container. Since my container has been cracked for months (and was actually cracked by Ramelli employees during a pickup), I expected that they would note the damage and automatically bring me a new trash bin.

That isn’t the case.

The woman that I spoke with at Ramelli was very nice and took down my information. She noted that there was a list of people who requested new trash bins and she would forward my information up to a supervisor.

Despite the fact that in Ramelli’s original 2007 contract they promised to replace all trash bins (and factored that cost into their bid), it seems that Kenner residents who want a new trash container are put on a list and distributed new containers as Ramelli purchases them.

This, "Pay-As-You-Go" policy, instead of the original, contracted total replacement of all old trash bins, also saves Ramelli money. 

THE BOTTOMLINE

Ramelli operated illegally and wasn’t sanctioned by former Mayor Ed Muniz and then-CAO Mike Yenni, is receiving illegal “Fuel Adjustment” payments, has not lived up to its contract and Kenner residents are NOT receiving the lowest rates possible.

Yet, Mayor Mike Yenni still extended Ramelli’s contract tying the City’s hands, and finances, for an additional 5 years. The current extension runs through 2017.

One good thing did occur after Yenni’s unilateral approval of the Ramelli contract extension was uncovered: in November 2012, Kenner residents approved a Charter Change by a 73-27% margin to take steps to ensure that no Mayor can enter into professional services contracts over $100,000 without Council approval and an opportunity for the public to comment.  

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