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Waste incinerator contract comes before Board of Estimates

Above: The city’s main iincinerator, situated near I-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, is expected to make money under a new contract.

UPDATE: All of the spending items listed below were approved by the Board of Estimates at a brief meeting this morning.

The board brushed aside a protest by attorney Arnold M. Jolivet that the $4.2 million contract to Johnson Controls for installing solar equipment for the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant should have been put out to competitive bids, rather than amended to a 2010 city contract for solar panels for downtown buildings. Jolivet also faulted the incinerator contract to Wheelabrator for circumventing the city’s competitive bidding process.

The Board of Estimates is expected today to approve a $104 million, 10-year contract for operating the city’s waste-to-energy incinerator, whose tall white smokestack is a distinctive feature to travelers on I-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

A new contract with the current operator, Wheelabrator Technologies, will permit Baltimore to dispose of about 200,000 tons of municipal solid waste annually at the plant. The ash produced at the incinerator is then used for the city’s Quarantine Road landfill at Hawkins Point.

The BRESCO incinerator produces high-pressure steam, which is used for heating and cooling some downtown buildings and to make electricity. The facility also recovers metals from the ash residue.

Opened in 1985 and formally known as BRESCO (Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems Co.), the incinerator has been dogged by controversy over air pollution and for operating with an expired air pollution permit. More generally, trash-burning power plants have been faulted as expensive and not especially environmentally friendly by some critics.

The new arrangement is expected to net the city a 7% profit over the life of the contract, according to the Bureau of Solid Wastes, by generating $112 million in revenues from tipping fees (fees paid by garbage haulers to dump trash), property taxes, a site lease, host fees and a solid waste surcharge.

It will also allow Baltimore to purchase electricity from Wheelabrator, at rates expected to save the city $9 million over the first five years of the contract. “The combined aspects of reliable, cost-effective waste disposal and below market energy costs provide operational efficiencies and much needed revenue to the city,” a briefing document said.

Other Spending Items

The incinerator contract is one of about 60 items before the Board of Estimates this morning. The board is chaired by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young but controlled by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and her two appointees, Public Works Director Alfred H. Foxx and City Solicitor George Nilson. City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt is the fifth board member.

Other significant spending items subject to Board approval include:

$4,286,825 for “repair and replacement of existing sanitary sewers at various locations” by R.E. Harrington Plumbing & Heating, with $287,217 going to minority contractor, P&J Contracting Inc.

$4,168,580 to Johnson Controls Inc., for construction and project management costs of installing a solar voltaic system at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant. The city will pay $3.3 million and use a $900,000 Sunburst Grant from the Maryland Energy Administration. The project will reduce the plant’s energy requirements and costs.

$3,116,828 over two years to LAZ Mid-Atlantic and PMS Parking for the management of Arena Garage, Redwood Street Garage and Marriott Garage. LAZ-PMS were selected from six bidders by the city Parking Authority following a review by a six-person panel that included Kirby Fowler, executive director of Downtown Partnership, and Tom Noonan, CEO of Visit Baltimore.

NOTE: Republic Parking System, which operates garages at 221 N. Paca St. and 99 S. Howard St., filed a protest to this award, but did not pursue it before the Board.

$1,419,705 for “citywide traffic calming” to P. Flanigan & Sons, with $255,700 going to minority contractor, Priority Construction Corp.

$1,000,000 to Honeywell Building Solutions for annual service and repairs of fire and other alarms at the Baltimore Convention Center. Honeywell has received $4.5 million to manage security alarms at the center since December 2004. Also before the Board is a $85,000 fund transfer to complete roof repairs at the Convention Center.

• A $450,000 increase to a $11.2 million award to American Eurocopter Corp. for police helicopter maintenance and repair. This award is “necessary to meet the city’s requirements for the remainder of the initial term,” according to the Bureau of Purchases.

$243,033 to Dallas Avionics for technisonic radios for police helicopters.

$463,560 in state funds to hire eight case monitors to “establish a plan for personal care” for those eligible for the Maryland Medical Assistance Program. Another $158,400 to go to Dynamic Medical Support Services under the same program.

$312,058 to Buchart-Horn Inc. to design alterations to the Waverly Branch of the Enoch Pratt Library, with $78,609 going to minority contractor, Sidhu Associates.

$24,681 to the Department of Recreation and Parks track teams to attend the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics Games during the first week of August. Rec and Parks is renting buses from Woodlawn Motor Coach for $16,400 to make the roundtrip to New Orleans. Department spokesperson Gwendolyn Chambers said about 90 athletes, ages 10 -18, are expected to go on the trip, together with coaches and chaperones.

PROPOSED REJECTION: Guilford Avenue Bike Boulevard

On June 15, one bid for $460,398 was received by the city for the Guilford Avenue Bike Boulevard. The city Department of Transportation said the bid “well exceeded” the expected budget and has asked the Board of Estimates to reject the bid.

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