Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas County poised to change operators at waste-to-energy plant

CLEARWATER — The fledgling firm that operates Pinellas County's $800 million waste-to-energy plant plans to fight a county decision that would keep the company from trying to land a new contract.

The County Commission on Tuesday voted 6-1 to start negotiations with Covanta Projects and Wheelabrator Technologies, the two firms ranked highest by staff after the county put out a request for qualifications.

That means GCS Energy Recovery of Pinellas, the lowest ranked of the four companies that submitted qualifications, will not get to make its pitch to continue to run a facility that generates more than $50 million a year in revenue for the county.

"My concern is I don't have the expertise to overrule the staff's analysis that (GCS) isn't in a fiscal position to support this operation moving forward," Commissioner Ken Welch said before the vote.

GCS company president Dan Elias said after the meeting that the evaluation process was flawed. He plans to submit an official bid protest.

"I'm confident that at the end of the day and the end of the process, the facts will be clear, and they're not as they were represented today," Elias said.

The facility on 114th Avenue N in St. Petersburg burns garbage to produce steam that powers turbines. Duke Energy buys about 60 megawatts of electricity a year, paying a monthly $3.5 million "capacity" payment, plus another roughly $12 million annually. The plant operator is paid per ton of garbage processed. The contract for the operator can be worth as much as $35 million a year.

GCS took over in December 2012 after Veolia Environnement, a French company, sold its contract. The Pinellas plant is the first of its kind that GCS, which was founded in 2008, has operated. The facility was in dire need of repair.

When the production rate continued to drop early last year, threatening the county's contract with Duke, the county agreed to cover GCS's operating costs to help boost the production numbers and reduce the plant's emissions. In return, GCS agreed that its own contract, which was set to run through 2024, would end Dec. 31, 2014, and the county would put the operation contract out to bid.

"What we agreed to is a fair procurement process," Elias said. "That's what we agreed to and that's what we expect."

The county put out a call for qualifications, and its staff ranked the firms on experience and financial strength, among other criteria. GCS submitted its qualifications as a joint venture with a large Spanish engineering firm called Abeinsa but still earned fewer than half the points of Covanta and Wheelabrator.

"We're trying to protect that asset as best we can," purchasing director Joe Lauro told the board. "You have to set the bar at a certain level."

Six of seven commissioners agreed with a staff recommendation to begin negotiations with the top two firms. Commissioner Norm Roche abstained, saying he wanted to get proposals from all four firms.

"I have a hard time recognizing why our current provider is punished for not having enough experience when their experience is our operation," Roche said.

Interim county administrator Mark Woodard warned that deviating from the advertised bid process would likely spark a protest from Covanta and Wheelabrator.

Those firms, Woodard said, "have great experience and depth of resources, both technically and financially."

Pinellas County poised to change operators at waste-to-energy plant 05/20/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 11:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas County to hire an expert to analyze lessons learned during Hurricane Irma

    Blogs

    Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard has his own opinions about the lessons learned from Hurricane Irma's reign over the area. But he plans to hire an outside expert to analyze what went right and wrong to better prepare for the 2018 hurricane season.

  2. Hurricane Maria slams Dominica, now takes aim at Puerto Rico

    Hurricanes

    ROSEAU, Dominica — Dominica's leader sent out an emotional plea for help as Hurricane Maria smashed into the Caribbean island causing "mind-boggling" devastation, but an ominous silence followed …

    A road is empty in Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. [Associated Press]
  3. St. Pete realtor Brandi Gabbard hopes to bring housing experience to city council

    Blogs

    St. Petersburg City Council candidate Brandi Gabbard looks at details and the long-term consequences when evaluating political decisions.

    Brandi Gabbard
  4. New York crowd gets glimpse of President Jeb(!)

    NEW YORK - He was gracious and measured, stern but sober - and tough on Russia - as he addressed the greatest challenges facing the United States.

    Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at a rally in Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 15, 2016. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS) 1211446
  5. One of St. Petersburg's newest condo projects is sold out

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Reflecting the continued demand for condos in downtown St. Petersburg, The Salvador, completed earlier this year at 199 Dali Blvd., has sold out. Records show that a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit sold Friday for $620,000 in an all-cash deal. Two other units — a 3-bedroom, 2-bath penthouse and a …

     Reflecting the continued demand for condos in downtown St. Petersburg, The Salvador, completed earlier this year at 199 Dali Blvd., has sold out. 
[Rendering courtesy of aalliiggnn LLC]