By Dustin Ensinger
The Delaware County commissioners are mulling over the possibility of partially reopening bids on a five-year contract for the disposal of waste water biosolids that was awarded less than one year ago.
The non-exclusive contract was awarded to Tennessee-based Santek Environmental in September, but the county has been approached by a local company that claims it can more usefully dispose of some of the waste product at a savings to taxpayers.
Representatives of Ringler Energy, which is based near the Village of Ashley, told the commissioners Tuesday that by using an anaerobic digestion system to turn the waste product into energy, they can save the county about $640,000 over the life of the contract. Under their proposal, Santek Environmental would remain under contract with the county to haul and dispose of the solid waste materials.
“This is a new concept for the industry,” said Kelley Lilly, a spokeswoman for the company. “However, it uses proven technology.”
Commissioner Gary Merrell said he likes the idea of using the waste product as a resource rather than just burying it underground, which Santek Environmental does at the Crawford County landfill.
However, both commissioners Ken O’Brien and Dennis Stapleton expressed reservations about reopening the bidding process.
“I need to know we’re not going to get our butts sued off because we’ve done this,” said Stapleton, latter adding, “I love the innovation of this.”
O’Brien said he does not believe Santek Environmental would have any legal recourse because the contract is not exclusive. However, he did say is is worried about the precedent such a move would set.
“My bigger fear is, yes we’ll save money on this one, but if people think their bids aren’t going to stand, I’m afraid we’re not going to get a lot of bids,” he said.
Director of Environmental Services Tiffany Jenkins said she broached the subject with an official at the company and the idea was not highly received because any reduction in the amount of waste they haul away from the county will reduce the value of the contract.
“They were not warm and fuzzy,” she said.
Merrell, for his part, said he has no qualms about about splitting the contract among more than one company because of its lack of exclusivity.
“I don’t feel this moral obligation because the contract doesn’t say that and they accepted the contract knowing that,” he said.
County officials plan to look into the proposal over the next several weeks.
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.