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City Council Delays Vote On Controversial Recycling Contract

City controller Chris Brown had initially refused to sign off on the contract citing concerns of transparency

Mayor Sylvester Turner speaks to reporters after a City Council meeting on December 19, 2017.

A $37 million recycling contract will have to wait until next year for a vote from City Council.

The award is supposed to go to the Spanish-owned firm Fomento De Construcciones Y Contratas, or FCC, who beat out the city’s current recycling contractor, Waste Management.

City controller Chris Brown had initially refused to sign off on the contract citing concerns with the destruction of documents from the bidding process and other restrictions on his office causing a perceived lack in transparency. 

Brown ultimately approved the deal, and despite sending it to City Council noted that the lack of transparency surrounding the bid and award is “of continued concern” and “erodes public confidence in the awarding of contracts.” 

Many council members expected the contract to pass before the 2017 holiday break, but just as the contract went up for vote Tuesday morning, council members Michael Kubosh and Steve Le decided to “tag” the item, delaying it. 

The move shocked members of the council who supported the contract, with one council member asking if anything could be done to proceed despite the tag. The contract will not be available to vote on before the council meets again in January.

Kubosh said he hopes the delay will allow for further review of the bidding process. He said he has not been allowed to view evaluations of FCC and Waste Management, leading him to wonder about the intentions of city evaluators.  

“I want to know who [the evaluators] are,” Kubosh told Houston Public Media,” how they scored, and why.” 

Supporters of FCC and the contract say Kubosh’s concerns are moot, asserting FCC provided the best price for their service.

“As of January we will be paying Waste Management more,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner, “and the longer it takes to setup this operation as we transition it’s going to cost us more.”

Turner added that he believes delaying the vote is not in the city’s best interest, citing China’s recent decision to stop the import of items to be recycled and that decision’s consequences on recycling prices.

Waste Management spoke to the council during public comment stating their firm better qualified that FCC to handle the city’s recycling. Waste Management joined the City Controller in questioning the award’s transparency.

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Davis Land

Senior Producer

Davis Land is a senior producer at Houston Public Media. He cut his teeth at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, MA and at WBUR in Boston. His work has appeared on various public radio programs and podcasts including Texas Standard, Here and Now, and Marketplace. Davis is a graduate...

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