City rejects firm’s bid to operate recycling center

Harlingen Recycling Center on Commerce Street. By Elsa Cavazos, Valley Morning Star

HARLINGEN — For months, some residents have been calling on city officials turn the Harlingen Recycling Center’s operations over to a company that would reopen the facility.

Since July, City Manager Dan Serna has searched for companies that could take over the operation.

But earlier this week, city commissioners rejected a lone bid from a Houston-area company proposing to charge about $469,455 a year to operate the recycling center.

“It’s pretty high,” Serna said from City Hall, referring to the proposal.

In July, the city’s request for a company to take over the recycling center’s operations failed to yield a single bid.

“We had several companies who voiced interest,” Serna said.

But none proposed an offer.

“That was surprising to me,” Serna said.

Lone bidder

Then in September, the city launched a second round of requests, this time leading Corporate Waste Solutions in Katy to propose operating the recycling center at a cost of $551,947 during its first year plus $68,580 in start-up expenses.

“CWS will provide the labor, equipment and materials to successfully staff and operate the city of Harlingen recycling center,” the company wrote to the city. “This will include a team of four full-time employees.”

“CWS wants to provide the most comprehensive recycling program possible to the city of Harlingen while keeping in mind the market conditions and capital expense necessary to provide expanded services.”

The company, which offered the city 40 percent of revenue derived from the sale of recyclable materials, stated it planned to expand the recycling center’s operations.

“CWS will have the authority and opportunity to expand services to collect recyclables from businesses, schools and institutions in and around the city of Harlingen for a fee to be determined by CWS and paid directly to CWS by the business, school or institution,” the company wrote.

Commissioners reject bid

During a Wednesday meeting, Rodrigo Davila, the city’s public works director, told commissioners the company had cut its annual charge to $469,455.

But the price tag was still too high, he said.

“The responder requires a payment to operate the recycling center at a higher cost,” Davila told commissioners. “They didn’t meet the parameters we had set. They came in with a different type of proposal.”

City to improve recycling program

After Wednesday’s vote rejected Corporate Waste Solutions’ proposal, Serna said he would review the city’s recycling operation.

“We have to reassess where we’re at and where we’re going,” he said.

Now, officials are planning to improve the new program allowing residents to place recyclable materials into bins transported to McAllen’s recycling center, Mayor Chris Boswell said.

“For now, we’re going to continue with our self-serve recycling program,” he said. “There are some things we can do to enhance the program such as educating people.”

Soon, he said, volunteers might be helping to man the two recycling stations during their “peak times” to show residents how to better separate materials into bins.

Officials are also considering partnering with Cameron County and the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council to expand the recycling program, Boswell said.

Background

In March, city officials closed the recycling center amid concerns the coronavirus could contaminate materials, exposing employees to COVID-19.

Then in July, city commissioners agreed to shut down the recycling center, citing high operating costs amid a collapsing global industry.

Instead, commissioners gave the go-ahead to launch a $90,000-a-year program allowing residents to drop off materials in bins located at the recycling plant and the landfill, from which the city is transporting the containers to McAllen’s recycling center.

“We are getting more use out of the bins at the recycling center,” Serna said.

At the time commissioners agreed to launch the city’s new program, they also requested Serna search for a private company to operate the recycling center.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com