Perhaps you saw the story in this morning’s Democrat-Gazette (no link available) about the city of Little Rock possibly looking at privatizing the city’s landfill. The article talks about the logistics involved, as well as some of the complications with putting out an RFP for such services (i.e. the landfill already has more than $14 million in debt). The article does mention the only other landfill currently operating in the city, the BFI landfill that, as you may remember, caused such a stink (literally) earlier this year that neighbors complained. The landfill was accepting drilling waste from natural gas drillers in the Fayetteville Shale. The city passed an ordinance preventing BFI from doing so, but BFI sued and a circuit judge ruled that Little Rock did not have the authority to retroactively apply such an ordinance. You can read that opinion here.
What the article didn’t mention is that BFI, who would more than likely bid on the city’s RFP for the landfill, will probably seek damages from the city in a separate trial in May of 2010, around the same time their current facility is scheduled to close. One attorney for the landfill said the company lost $60,000 per day because of the ordinance. The city has not appealed the circuit court decision, but likely will if BFI decides to pursue damages.
Now, the interesting question is whether BFI will be allowed to bid on the city’s RFP. Could the company use the threat of pursuing damages to curry favor with the city from whom they hope to acquire the landfill? City attorney Tom Carpenter says that is a valid concern.
“There’s been more than one board member that has wondered why they would be allowed to bid,” he says. “We’ve got a rule, for example, that attorneys who are involved in suits against the city are not allowed to seek city business. And there’s been questions like, if there’s someone seeking damages against the city in this line of business, do we have to allow them to bid? That will be a policy decision the board will have to make. But if the board does make that a policy like they’ve done in other contexts, then they probably wouldn’t be eligible to bid.”
It’s a tricky situation, and one that we’ll be keeping an eye on.