LANDFILL: Landfill Rides on a Performance-Based Contract

When teaching a tyke to ride a bike, you eventually must let go and allow the child to pedal. In many ways that's what the Pinellas County Utilities Department of Solid Waste Operations (DSWO), St. Petersburg, Fla., had to do when switching its Bridgeway Acres Landfill (BWA) operations from a task-oriented contract to a performance-based contract.

The DSWO has used private operators to manage BWA since 1983. However, under previous contracts, DSWO maintained substantial control, releasing only certain areas to the contractor for operation and closely monitoring and directing activities such as the fill sequence, drainage routing, etc.

When the most recent contract expired in the first quarter of 2000, the DSWO wanted to be less involved yet protect its interests. Consequently, it decided to switch from a task-operated to a performance-based contract.

In addition to handling residue ash from the county's waste-to-energy (WTE) plant, plus other materials the plant can't process regularly the contractor must be capable of processing up to 3,000 tons of waste per day should the WTE plant shut down unexpectedly. This also includes being responsible for other areas, such as complying with facility permits and proper waste disposal. And the contractor must maintain the facility.

To structure the new performance-based contract, the county used several resources, including its legal and purchasing departments. The DSWO staff also:

  • Gathered contracts from other contractor-operated landfills in the area;

  • Visited performance-operated sites to observe operation and site conditions;

  • Discussed performance-oriented contracts with other landfill managers who've incorporated such contracts into their operations to determine what should be done differently; and

  • Obtained assistance from the county's solid waste consultant, HDR Engineering, Tampa, Fla.

DSWO decided that the new contractor would maintain the landfill without regular instruction and follow his own operation plan, as long as the plan complied with permit conditions and the county-approved operation guidelines.

Additionally, the contractor would control: litter; dust; vectors; noise; emergencies, fire control and safety; traffic maintenance; waste stream screening; toxic, hazardous, unapproved and prohibited wastes; wet weather disposal operations; tire management; vegetation maintenance; inspection and corrective action. The contractor also oversee the facilities and personnel.

The DSWO would spot-check the contractor's operation, but not monitor it regularly. Items not performed satisfactorily, could be assigned liquidated damages.

The contractor also would provide a minimum of 16 pieces of equipment manufactured no later than 1999. The contract prohibited scavenging, salvaging and burning.

DSWO sought candidates based on their financial capability, technical experience, general company experience, long-range plans, daily management plans, personnel requirements, equipment requirements, total proposal points, Class III recycling proposal and total evaluation points.

Once a contractor was chosen, DSWO personnel found it somewhat difficult to initially adjust from managing tasks to managing performance. However, problems were discussed and solved in monthly meetings. Meantime, the new contract helped to lighten the DSWO's responsibilities, and the county now spends less time on daily operational issues.

Additionally, the DSWO management team has learned:

  • Owners and contractors should view themselves as partners, not a revenue source or an expense.

  • Contractors must select a capable management team for performance-oriented contracts. The team must include a site manager, who is a self-starter, plus a good administrator. Successful managers also must be service- and people-oriented.

  • Monthly meetings help solve problems.

  • Communication is key to success.

  • If minor contract items are not completed, such as litter not picked up and uncut grass, it is the contractor's responsibility to complete the tasks or face possible liquidated damages.

  • Contracts should be structured to benefit all the parties — the owner, contractor and the public.