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Wasted in Denver Abstract of Study Brief on Denver's Contract for Waste Disposal

IB-2004-O (June 2004)
Author: Beth Skinner

PDF of full Issue Backgrounder
Scribd version of full Issue Backgrounder

Executive Summary

Across the nation, cities that have switched from monopolies to open market systems for solid waste collection and disposal have, almost without exception, enjoyed better service, lower prices and a better-compensated workforce.

On December 22, 1997, the City of Denver voted without the scrutiny of a public hearing to enter into a contract for the management of the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site (DADS), which houses 100 percent of the city’s waste. The contract forbids competition for the city’s lucrative waste hauling business for possibly the next century.

This Issue Brief reviews the effects of competition on solid waste collection and disposal systems in six cities and concludes that Denver taxpayers are the real victims of the city’s monopolistic practices to the tune of at least $300 million dollars over the life of the contract.

The Hickenlooper Administration should correct the poor policy choices of the Webb Administration, and should start from scratch with a lively and public competitive bid process for a new contract. The city should insist on imposing stringent financial controls on any company or companies that win all or part of the new contract award, including regular financial and performance audits. The contract should be for a reasonable period of time—not a century. It should include evaluation and renewal clauses at standard intervals to ensure that taxpayer dollars are preserved for this and future generations.