No action on city garbage contracts

‘Favored rate’ clause in contracts not verifiable

Winnebago County Board approves landfill expansion at Dec. 8 meeting

Significant problems with Rockford and Loves Park’s garbage contracts still exist 10 months after The Rock River Times research suggested the pacts may be costing taxpayers and residents big money. Exactly how much money is not possible to calculate under the existing system.

Both cities have no way to compare and verify that the municipality is receiving the lowest possible rate for collection and/or disposal of garbage, as stipulated in the contracts.

The primary issue focuses on different and incompatible units that are used to determine payments for garbage collection and disposal services. Specifically, Rockford pays the contractor in dollars per ton of refuse, and Loves Park residents pay the contractor in dollars per residential unit. But both cities’ contracts are with subsidiary companies of William Charles, Inc.

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said Dec. 12 he was researching the history of the issue and was meeting with staff members to obtain answers to questions. Morrissey added he would comment next week. Patrick Hayes, attorney for the City of Rockford, did not return messages for comment.

City of Loves Park Mayor Darryl Lindberg refused to be interviewed for this article.

And City Attorney Paul Nicolosi acknowledged that “we where [sic, were] asked to and did in fact look at it. …My client has further asked that I spend no further time unless specific and supportable facts are set out to call the fairness of the award process and contract into question. As such, I am ethically required to follow no further on this matter.”

Nicolosi and Lindberg also refused to be interviewed to identify who directed Nicolosi to not answer questions.

Landfill expansion

In addition to problems with enforcing the favored rate clauses, Rockford has to trust that contractor Winnebago Reclamation Inc., is charging the municipalities for the correct weight of garbage that is dumped into its landfill, Pagel Pit, which opened July 17, 1972, and is slated to close it’s existing section in 2010.

The dump, which was formerly known as Pagel Pit, received approval from the Winnebago County Board Dec. 8 to expand what is now Winnebago Landfill. The 18.7 million cubic-yard expansion is expected to serve 11 northern Illinois counties between 2010 and 2031.

In 2004, the County also approved spending millions of taxpayer funds on two roads that lead to the landfill, which is located on the southwest corner of the Baxter and Lindenwood Road intersections. The money will pay for 8 miles of road upgrades on Baxter Road, and 5 miles on South Perryville Road.

Both Loves Park and Rockford have contracts with subsidiary companies of William Charles, Inc., which was headed by Charles J. Howard, who was president of Winnebago Reclamation before his retirement.

Gary Marzorati is president of newly formed Winnebago Landfill Company, LLC, which is associated with Winnebago Reclamation and Rock River Disposal Services, Inc. The company requested the landfill expansion.

Messages for comment were not returned by William Charles representatives.

Contracts and negotiations

Rockford’s residential contracts are with Winnebago Reclamation for garbage disposal and Rock River Disposal for trash collection. The city bills residents for trash collection and disposal service.

In contrast, rather than the city being billed by the contractor, Loves Park mandates that residential units be billed directly by Rock River Disposal, instead of the city.

Rockford renegotiated its collection and disposal contracts in early 2003, and extended the contracts until Dec. 31, 2013. The renegotiation was in response to Ald. Frank Beach’s (R-10) questioning of the disposal contract in September 2002, and an Oct. 9, 2002, article in The Rock River Times concerning the same topic.

Instead of calling for the collection and disposal contracts to be put out for bid, Rockford City Council members, including former Rockford Mayor Doug Scott, were content to renegotiate the contracts after Winnebago Reclamation and Rock River Disposal representatives agreed to contract talks.

As detailed in the article “Garbage contracts stink,” which was published in the Feb. 23-March 1, 2005, issue of The Rock River Times, sources asserted that Rockford may have been able to dump its trash at another local landfill at a significantly lower cost. Instead, Rockford taxpayers were charged $31.72 per ton in 2004 for disposal of their refuse into Pagel Pit on the county’s far south side.

In addition, during the 2003 contract negotiations, city officials apparently overlooked mandating a provision to independently verify the weight and source of the garbage that is billed to Rockford taxpayers. No one is at the truck scales on behalf of the taxpayers.

Like Rockford residents, Loves Park citizens are also supposed to receive the lowest possible rate for collection and disposal of their residential garbage. The problem with both contracts is it’s impossible to independently verify that either municipality is receiving the lowest rate.

Rockford pays the contractors in dollars per ton, while Loves Park citizens pay Rock River Disposal in dollars per house per month on a quarterly basis. Such reporting of units appears irreconcilable for comparison purposes without a weight and source verification system.

Interviews and campaign money

During an interview Feb. 9, 2005, Loves Park Mayor Darryl F. Lindberg admitted it wasn’t possible for residential owners to determine if they are receiving the lowest rate. He also said he was “very happy” with the level of service Rock River Disposal has provided since the contract went into effect Jan. 1, 2003.

Lindberg said during the February interview that Loves Park’s contract was negotiated by City Attorney Paul S. Nicolosi.

Through a series of e-mails, Nicolosi refused requests for an unrestricted interview. Nicolosi insisted on receiving a list of the questions and topics before any interview.

The Rock River Times declined Nicolosi’s proposal, but did submit unanswered questions regarding the February 2005 article.

In Nicolosi’s final e-mail Nov. 21, he responded to a question about whether he personally read Loves Park’s garbage contract before entering into the agreement by writing:

“Jeff, are you serious? I did answer the question. We look at all major contracts for our municipal clients when asked to do so. This is a major contract, and it is my recollection that we where [sic, were] asked to and did in fact look at it. Again, I was attempting to be more inclusive to your question.

“I have spoken to my client [the City of Loves Park] and have been informed that they have no issue with the contract, that the current contractor was the low bidder, the service is excellent, it is on a per household—not tonnage basis.

My client has further asked that I spend no further time unless specific and supportable facts are set out to call the fairness of the award process and contract into question. As such I am ethically required to follow no further on this matter. I hope that the above answers your question,” Nicolosi wrote.

Nicolosi cut off questions before he was asked whether he was instructed by Lindberg to “spend no further time” answering questions concerning the contract.

Lindberg did not return messages for comment, and whether he instructed Nicolosi to not answer further questions.

State election records show Lindberg received a $1,000 contribution to his campaign fund from William Charles on Dec. 23, 2004, $250 on Oct. 29, 2004, from Larry M. Lyons, president of Rock River Disposal and $750 on Nov. 17, 2004, from Nicolosi’s law firm.

And Nicolosi’s construction business, Buckley Companies, annouced plans Nov. 30 to demolish buildings at 324 and 326 Chestnut St. To accomplish this, Buckley Companies had to acquire Gaspo’s Bar and Grill, which was owned by former Winnebago County Sheriff Don Gasparin

i and his family who are investors in the project.

Gasparini is the father of Winnebgao County Clerk Marc Gasparini.

Buckley Companies plans to construct a five-floor building with retail, office and residential units. The building will be located across the street from the new federal courthouse. The Nicolosi family owned buildings on the block for more than 30 years.

Nicolosi said: “We are pleased that Mayor Morrissey and [Winnebago] County Board Chairmen Scott Christiansen share our enthusiasm for the potential of the area.”

Since 1999, Nicolosi and his businesses have contributed $72,990 to local political campaigns in the form of cash, loans and in-kind contributions. Of that total, nearly half or $31,400 was contributed to Christiansen’s campaign fund.

Morrissey’s campaign also received money from a Nicolosi business. On April 4, 2005 Morrissey’s campaign received $2,500 from the Principal Group, LLC.

From the Dec. 14-20, 2005, issue

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