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Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority
COMMENTARY published in the Hartford Courant
January 2, 2011

Trash Authority Has Been Good Steward


CRRA Chairman Michael A. Pace

December 16 was a red-letter day for the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority and, more importantly, the people who depend on us for trash disposal and recycling. We made sure we would fulfill a promise made in 2002 when we took over an agency in danger of defaulting on its bonds and jeopardizing the state’s bond rating.

We promised to secure the authority’s finances and provide reliable service with stable, predictable disposal fees. Since July 2004, when we charged $70 per ton of trash, to now, when we charge $69, we’ve done that.

And on December 16, we took an action that will result in real savings for our customers. We selected NAES Corporation, which has operated over 176 power plants, to receive a five-year contract to operate our Mid-Connecticut trash-to-energy facility beginning December 31, 2011.

For years, we have been predicting that competitively bidding this contract would yield substantial savings, and now we have been proven correct. We began this process 15 months ago, and based on terms of the contract, we expect that our disposal fee in FY 2013, by which time NAES will have taken over both the waste-processing and power-generation sides of the facility, could be as much as 10 percent less than today’s $69 per ton.

In today’s economy, everyone is concerned about jobs, and changing contractors as we’re doing can be particularly worrisome to employees. However, we insisted that NAES agree to offer jobs to everyone working in the facility at the same wages. No one will lose a job because of this transition.

We are confident our process will stand up to the most rigorous scrutiny. Please take the time to read a detailed memo management prepared for the Board available on our website and see for yourself. We conducted this procurement diligently, carefully and thoroughly.

This is the way government contracting is supposed to work – casting a wide net for interested bidders, reviewing each proposal impartially and winding up with the most cost-effective use of tax dollars.

However, at least one of the unsuccessful bidders would rather force us to spend money defending ourselves in court. Almost immediately following our decision, we received subpoenas from the Metropolitan District (MDC), which has operated the waste-processing side of the plant since it opened in 1988, for every single document related to the procurement and selection process, part of a lawsuit MDC had filed against us challenging our selection process before we made our selection.

We also expect that MDC will use its vast array of politically-connected allies to engineer some kind of legislative action that will hamper this transition. MDC pays its lawyers and lobbyists from its revenues – sewer and water fees that come from municipal taxpayers – but evidently they’d rather spend your money in court or the halls of the Capitol than in making sure their water is clean and their sewers work properly. Anyone interested in good government should demand MDC focus on its own business instead of trying to interfere with ours.

Selecting this contractor – and, more importantly, its benefits to the citizens of Connecticut – is the most significant of our many accomplishments:

  • We ensured the Mid-Connecticut facility remains publicly owned.
  • Our work on the trash-to-energy plant has ensured that, with industry-standard maintenance, it has a useful life of another 15 to 20 years.
  • We introduced single-stream recycling to Connecticut, and our towns are recycling more and making less trash.
  • We will soon retire our debt, so no longer will we require our towns to sign long-term contracts or pledge their full faith and credit to our bonds.
  • We closed the Hartford landfill, which soon will be an oasis of green space in Hartford’s industrial North End.

Managing the safe disposal of garbage – something that most people would rather not think about – is humbling. We have no delusions of grandeur, no expectations of the state congratulating us for a job well done. But looking back at what we’ve achieved, today’s board members and those who have served since CRRA was reconstituted in 2002 should be proud. I am.

Michael A. Pace has served as Chairman of the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority since 2002 and as First Selectman of Old Saybrook since 1999.

This CRRA.ORG page was last updated on January 24, 2011.
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