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Letter from Genesee ARC regarding trash collection contract

Open Letter:

There has been much misinformation and confusion regarding Genesee ARC and the city’s Trash and Recycling Request for Bids. I am writing to clarify the process from the ARC perspective. The city administration also has information, a perspective, and opinion on this issue. I am speaking on behalf of Genesee ARC to answer some of the many questions that have been posed to me and on the various sites in social media, The Batavian, and The Daily News.

I’d like to preface this letter with the fact that we are a nonprofit organization and we are mission driven, as we should be. Our decisions in every aspect of the work we do are predicated upon doing what is best for the individuals we serve. We have a highly dedicated staff who understand that this is our purpose: “to support people with disabilities, in partnership with their families and the community.  ... and nurture their social, spiritual, physical and emotional growth.”

Genesee ARC began discussions regarding contract renewal with the city administration last summer. The city administration presented a number of new options that they wanted to transition to, including the cart system. This program was something we were asked not to share and we didn’t share, at their request. We voiced our concerns about this change because it would eliminate a number of jobs for the people we support. If we are not providing jobs for people with disabilities we are not following our mission. We also discussed single-stream recycling which would be difficult for us to implement but felt we would need to do if we were to proceed with the contract. We were asked for much information including the financial reports of the program. We complied with the city administration’s request as they said they were entitled to such as they held the contract.

We also discussed that this contract fell under the NYS Finance Law Article XI, Section 161 & 162 4(b)(i), which governs Preferred Source Vendors and Municipalities in NYS. A municipality must work with a Preferred Source Vendor if there is a vendor who can provide the service or commodity. The vendor must provide the service in the “form, function, and utility" as prescribed by the municipality. This is an important point that plays a significant role in the current discussion.

Genesee ARC did share some of our financial information regarding this service with the city administration so that we could develop a program that would fit the city’s needs and requests. After that submission we did not meet again even though we requested additional meetings with the director of Public Works.

On November 6, 2012, NYSID, the organization that facilitates the Preferred Source contracts and Genesee ARC received a request for bid from the City of Batavia. At that time we had 10 days to respond with a letter of intent as required in Section 162 referenced earlier. NYSID did respond on our behalf as required within the required timeframe. A meeting was requested by Genesee ARC and NYSID with city administration which they accommodated on November 14th at which time the city advised that they considered our letter to be insufficient. Subsequently, a second letter was submitted which clearly stated that we would fulfill the contract following the “form, function, and utility.” The city manager asked at the end of our meeting if we (Genesee ARC) could fulfill the contract in “form, function, and utility” and my final answer was “Yes." Subsequently, the city administration claimed we were non-responsive, in spite of the letter from NYSID and my in-person verbal response to the contrary.

On November 29th we received a response from the city administration that they did not recognize our request as a Preferred Source Vendor and had determined that we would not be able to meet the “form, function, and utility” of the request based on previous conversations with Genesee ARC. On that same day, the Request for Bid was submitted to all public bidders and posted on the city’s Web site. Of course we were eligible to submit a bid as well.

We considered filing an Article 78 motion to force recognition of our status but determined that it would not likely be of benefit.

At that time we were determined to participate and compete in the bid process to the best of our ability and try to maintain as many jobs for the people we support as possible.

The public should understand that the tote/cart system was a part of the city's request and unless ARC complied with the critical components of the proposal we could not participate at all. The city does have the right to propose such a program, if the residents disagree with this recommendation they should appeal to their council representatives. The bidders all had access to the provisions of the RFB and needed to submit a proposal that met the requirements or be disqualified.

Genesee ARC followed all the requirements. We consulted with regional experts in the field and submitted what we felt was a competitive bid and one that keep a majority of the people who currently work on the contract employed.

The city requested automated and semi-automated service. The purchase of all new equipment was not within our budget. We could however retrofit two of our trucks and retain the recycling pick up. We were able to work with a company from Chili which would be able to fulfill the trash collection and disposal portion of the contract. Again, this helped us retain jobs for most of the people with disabilities, who were employed on this contract.

We went head-to-head in the competitive marketplace as many have felt should have happened for many years, in spite of our Preferred Source Vendor status as written in NYS law. Although I believe we gave it our best effort, we were competing against national companies who bring all of their considerable resources to the table with them. I liken this to a Big Box store competing against a homegrown Mom-and-Pop grocery mart. The financial position of the bigger companies is hard to overcome.

We provided value-added components that we thought were worthy of consideration, as well as the knowledge that dollars spent with ARC are reinvested locally.

The final decision will be up to the council members. We will accept their decision but hope that they review all proposals fully before rendering that final decision.

There have been a number of questions regarding the financial statements and charts that were in the city manager’s presentation of January 14, 2013. I would ask that the charts from pages 7 and 9 be looked at carefully. The presentation indicates that current city costs are approximately $1,016,034. That may be true, but ARC has been paid only $811,000 for the fifth year of the contract, it was lower each of the previous four years. In fact, this final year of the contract is lower than the contract of 2007, which was $870,707. This shows that the payment to Genesee ARC has decreased over the past five years. The difference between what ARC is paid and the annual cost of the contract could be attributed to the rate that the city negotiated with its vendor for disposal. We do not receive any reimbursement for that portion of the contract. As for the five-year prediction, the city manager will need to provide an explanation for such a dramatic increase as over the past five years ARC has only experienced an average increase in revenue of 2 percent.

Also in clarification to concerns about prevailing wages: Genesee ARC has always paid prevailing wages for any municipal, government or any other contract that has required it, including the contract with the City of Batavia. ARC employees also receive a full benefit package to include health insurance if they so choose.

Regarding wages for other people who work within our vocational program, they receive compensation at various levels that fall within our Special Wage Certificate as granted by the Federal Department of Labor. These wages are carefully monitored not only by DOL but also OPWDD (Office of People with Developmental Disabilities) and NYS DOL.

People who experience disabilities have the highest level of unemployment in the U.S. at approximately 14.4 percent based on the U.S. National Bureau of Statistics. That rises to almost 70 percent for someone with a developmental disability. One of our major initiatives is to access employment in the community for the people we support. This is not an easy task. There are several local companies who have been very supportive of these efforts yet we continue to have many people who remained unemployed or underemployed. Our ultimate goal would be to be able to close our work center because the people we support are employed in the community.

We would be happy to work with any company, agency, or local government entity that would be interested in learning more about providing employment opportunities for the people we serve at Genesee ARC.

In closing, this is a very complex topic. The depth of this issue and implications for all parties involved cannot be summarized in a two-minute interview with a news outlet or conveyed in the back-and-forth of an online news site. The financial implications for the city are significant, as are the impacts to the residents of the city. For those who seek more in-depth information regarding the proposals you can ask to see them at city hall. You can also review the new ordinance that will govern this process. Also you should attend every council meeting and utilize the opportunity they provide to you to express your thoughts and opinions.

Genesee ARC will continue to provide services to the people with developmental disabilities in Genesee County. The loss of this contract will have implications for everyone who works on the contract and our community as well. In the end, whatever the outcome, we will continue to provide whatever supports we can to everyone we serve. It is our mission and this drives our actions and our future endeavors.

Respectfully and proudly submitted,

Donna Saskowski
Executive Director
Genesee ARC

Loretta Gamin
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very well said Donna Saskowski.

Ted Wenzka
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Ms Saskowsi, thank you for setting the record straight and clarifying things. Makes me question the validity of Mr. Molino's statements and I hope the council review this with an open mind.

PS: Howard, thank you for posting.

tim raines
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Ms Saskowski

You are correct.....the financial implications for the residents of the City of Batavavia are significant.

Your "mom and pop" reference is questionable. ARC, a preferred contractor, gets a 15% price advantage over competing companies. And, according to the city "fact sheet" If the current ARC contract continued, the cost to city residents would be $1,217,000.00 more over a 5 year period than Allied has bid for the 5 years. ARC is the higher bidder.

That's a lot of money for any city to pay.

Instead of writing your letter to the Batavian, you could have written a letter to the City of Batavia, lowering your bid by $656,126.00.

Your "regional experts" failed you in your bid process.

Jim Rosenbeck
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Thank you Ms. Saskowski. This information sure does help paint a more clear picture of why we need the specialized tote carts. Mr. Raines, it seems to me that Na. Saskowski has gone out of her way in attempts to communicate directly with the city. Her agency has been the source of much discussion here. Setting the record straight for concerned citizens is totally appropriate. I admire her professionalism.

Daniel Jones
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I don't live in Batavia, so I don't usually comment on such matters. That being said, going with a reputable waste management company and receiving a 14% tax cut, or staying with the current service and being hit with a 21% tax increase, seems to be pretty much a no brainier to me. It's sad to see ARC lose this contract, but costs must be kept in mind when making a decision of that magnitude about a contractor.

Robert Brown
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Keep in mind that the decrease in taxes is offset (and likely way more than offset by a majority of the taxpayers) with new tote fees. There has been no complete disclosure of information to indicate that all viable options were explored or to explain how businesses can opt of the proposed tote system while residents cannot.

That said, if we are in fact forced to use a tote system the low bidder should win. The wisdom of a long term contract is debatable depending upon the terms and frankly is somewhat of a gamble on many fronts. Considering the great service provided by the ARC for years and the benefit to the community, one would wonder why the city management didn't work more closely with them to ensure they were as well informed and prepared as possible to address imposed changes.

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