The North Riverside Village Board quietly and unanimously voted to extend its contract with waste hauling firm Roy Strom Inc. on Monday night. With a year left on the current five-year contract, the board voted to extend the deal another 10 years.

One of the key aspects of the contract is, of course, the price Roy Strom is charging to the village per residential customer. For the first three years of the extended contract, Roy Strom is freezing the rate at the price the village now pays.

What makes that notable is that at the end of 2019 the village will still be paying less than the rate it paid its previous waste hauler, Allied Waste, in 2012. But that’s not all, even when rate increases from Roy Strom start kicking in in 2020, the village will be paying less per household until September of 2023.

That’s 11 years at a lower rate than the village paid in 2012.

How did this happen? Well, Allied Waste had been the waste hauling firm for North Riverside for decades. They kept raising rates and the village board simply kept extending the term of their service.

In 2012, two trustees on the village board felt that simply extending the deal was nuts. The two trustees, Rocco DeSantis and H. Bob Demopoulos, happened to be outside of the political majority, but they had spots on the three-person board committee that oversaw waste hauling. So their committee voted to seek competitive bids.

Astonishingly, at the time, the full board didn’t agree that was necessary. Two trustees voted against seeking bids. But when the bids came about $4 per household below what the village was paying, the board could hardly walk away from such a deal.

The deal was so good, in fact, that it has now been extended another 10 years.

The moral to this story?

There ought to be a policy in place that every so often a municipality needs to seek competitive bids for the expensive services for which it seeks private contractors. Waste hauling is one of those services. Auditors, engineering firms, legal counsel are others.

One of the most expensive contractual line items in North Riverside’s budget is paramedic service. In the 2016-17 budget, the village appropriated $488,000 for those services.

The paramedic service the village employs has, like Allied Waste, had a contract with the village for more than 20 years. And the village has been trying to figure out ways, including privatizing the fire department completely, to reduce costs related to firefighters and paramedics.

One surefire way to address the situation would be to put the paramedic service contract out for competitive bidding. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the village might see bids as competitive as the last waste hauling contract, but how would you know if you never try?

As village officials and firefighters continue to inch toward a new deal, it might be a good idea for the village to show that it is serious enough about cutting costs to consider seeking competitive bids for a line item that presently runs at a half million dollars.

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