Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

April 16, 2014

Council votes to seek RFQs for wastewater operation

CROSSVILLE — The city of Crossville has had a 20-year relationship with Veolia Water, the contractor that currently operates the wastewater treatment plant for the city, and while council members say they don't have a problem with the company's service, they have voted to send out requests for qualifications (RFQ) to determine if they have the best company operating the facility.

The current contract with Veolia expires Sept. 30, 2014, and council will need to make a decision by that time. City Manager David Rutherford said the city is under a tight time line to complete the RFQ and make a decision by Aug. 1 about who the contractor will be. Though some members of the council are concerned about the cost of the service, under state law, this type service is not bid out.

Under an RFQ, companies, including Veolia, interested in providing the service must respond to the questions in the RFQ and the council will review the responses and choose a short list of candidates they will interview and possibly visit the firms' operations as they make their decision. Once the council chooses the top candidate, they can then began to negotiate a contract. Should the city and the contractor be unable to come to an agreement on the contract, the city can then move to the second choice.

The city's consultant, Municipal Technical Advisory Service, reviewed the relationship between the city and Veolia and gave their opinion that because of the longstanding relationship, the city could simply negotiate a new contract without sending out RFQs, but also recommended that a more detailed contract be negotiated with whoever the service provider might be.

Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III commented during the discussion that he remembered when Crossville's wastewater treatment plant was under a moratorium that stopped growth of the city at that time.

Graham added, “In my opinion, the work Veolia did brought us not only out of a moratorium, but the operation is recognized as one of the leading wastewater treatment facilities in the Southeast. With the relationships that Veolia and Clark (Annis) have with TDEC and other agencies across the state, I submit that we do not take any other action on RFQs and negotiate a contract with Veolia.”

Graham concluded making that in the form of a motion. Councilman George Marlow supported Graham's motion.

Councilman Pete Souza said he didn't have a problem with Veolia but he felt the city should explore other contractors and proceed with the requesting RFQs.

“If the RFQ's come back and Veolia is the top dog, it just reinforces the position and argument that the mayor has. Not putting out the RFQ's is an error in management,” concluded Souza.

Discussion included praise for area manager Clark Annis, who worked for the city directly before moving to Veolia when they got the contract to operate the plant, Councilman Jesse Kerley felt Annis was the reason for the success of the city's plant and felt a less costly contractor could oversee Annis and get similar results. It was also pointed out that the RFQs were not bids and cost estimates are not part of an RFQ response.

Graham's motion failed by a 3 to 2 vote, with council members Souza, Danny Wyatt and Kerley voting no.

Kerley then moved that the city send out RFQs for the wastewater operations. Kerley's motion was seconded by Souza.

Wyatt asked Rutherford if he was comfortable with the council requesting RFQs and Rutherford responded, “You've had a company that has worked for you for 20 years that you've been fairly successful with the regulatory agencies. I've been here seven months. My job is to do what you gentlemen ask me to do, so if you want me to go RFQs and get some companies in here, I'll do that. I've got a draft ready to go.”

Kerley's motion passed with Souza, Wyatt, Marlow and Kerly voting in favor. Graham was opposed.

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