Atlanta Council Advances Sole Source Contract on Grease Processing

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(APN) ATLANTA — At the Full Council Meeting of the City Council of Atlanta on Tuesday, August 04, 2012, the Council approved legislation allowing Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration to move forward on negotiating a controversial sole source contract with a company called Fogfuels, Inc., to convert cooking grease into fuel for the City.

The proposal, introduced by Councilman Lamar Willis (Post 3-at-large) and others on behalf of the Department of Watershed Management, would provide for a contract between the City of Atlanta and Fogfuels, and would not solicit requests from proposals from any other companies.

APN first reported on the proposed sole source contract after it was first brought up at the Committee Briefing of the Finance/Executive Cmte of the City Council of Atlanta.  The proposal later passed the Finance/Executive Cmte, with only Chairwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) and Councilman Kwanza Hall (District 2) voting no.

Voting in favor of the sole source contract negotiations at Full Council were Carla Smith (District 1), Ivory Young (District 3), Cleta Winslow (District 4), Howard Shook (District 7), Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11), Joyce Sheperd (District 12), Aaron Watson (Post 2-at-large), and Willis.

Voting against were Hall, Natalyn Archibong (District 5), Yolanda Adrean (District 8), and Moore.

“There are other companies that provide this type of service,” Moore said.  

“Different companies may employ different techniques… but they still have a technology to do that,” Moore said.

“My only fear is that… with this particular legislation that the conversation would just be about their particiular solution and not the whole body of solutions that may be out there,” Adrean said.

“I also… don’t think this is a sole source.  I think we need to take some very deliberate time.  There are many groups that have come to me over the years and offered these types of solutions,” Hall said.

Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell (District 5) raised concerns about the proposed contract, in an August 30 email to constituents, citing environmental justice concerns.

“Environmental Justice Alert: Utoy Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant (Near Bakers Ferry Road),” the email stated.

“There was no discussion of the impact on the people who live in the surrounding communities.  The 2012 Greenlaw report on demographics and pollution in Metropolitan Atlanta states that the area between Cascade Road and Bakers Ferry Road along the Fulton Industrial Boulevard Corridor already contains 55 pollution points.  That’s more than any other block in Metropolitan Atlanta. This report ranks the 1.5 mile stretch of Fulton Industrial Boulevard, which includes the Utoy plant, as the number one hotspot in Atlanta,” Patricia Floyd, President of Boulder Park Area Neighborhood Association, said during public comment.

“I am requesting that you deny that proposal,” Floyd said.

“I would implore you please to go back and look at the video, the taped meeting of the Finance Cmte, and be guided by the comments of the Chair, Councilwoman Felicia Moore.  She is so wise and she is so on top of this issue.  I will not try to repeat her comments, I just you to please go back and look at it.  I don’t think members of Council as a body know anything about this proposal.  This is a slick presentation,” Vangie Watkins said.

“I don’t how the Council could consider obligating half of Utoy Creek Plants to a private, deep-pocket, private-profit industry that has no experience with this process, and then in the future, if there’s an issue with needed improvements at Utoy, do we have the land on that site to be able to expand to bring Utoy up to state-of-the-art treatment as our water system?” Watkins said.

“It’s being proposed as a biodiesel processing plant.  The man has fourteen million dollars.  He can take his fourteen million dollars and buy a city block somewhere and build his plant and he can contract with whomever at his own expense.  Don’t give it to him,” Watkins said.

“In a rush to associate progress and green industries… it seems like we’re running over… the fact that the health disparities in Southwest Atlanta have not been considered,” citizen activist Ron Shakir of Southwest Atlanta said.

“The fact that we have citizens who have stated, that I have talked to… that they have been in this business and they have taken proposals to the City of Atlanta to do this same type of work.  Work that Mr. Willis addressed as though they’re the only people that can do this,” Shakir said.

“I think… To give a no-bid contract and give him sole status, it will be an action that this Council should not move on… It’s not transparent enough, the fact that the health issues have not been presented to this community.  The fact that we’re going down a contract that’s going to be fifteen years long,” Shakir said.

“Let’s start off fresh with green and do right, and make sure that we’re not pushing, and treating other vendors unfairly by making this an open bid if there’s gonna be one,” Shakir said.

Meanwhile, Atlanta Progressive News has spoken with a small business owner who is considering litigation against the City because he said his company approached the City of Atlanta with a similar proposal to provide a similar service for the City of Atlanta, and that the City told him that they would have to put it out to bid.

“We gave our information to one of her [Watershed Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina’s] subordinates,” the source, who was granted anonymity because of possible upcoming litigation, said.

“Two and a half years ago was the first time.  We met with them a year ago.  We met with them again five months ago,” he said.

“They overlooked us and we didn’t hear anything else about it until this bomb blew up,” he said.

“We tried to get sole source in several counties because of our technology.  They all said the same thing – we need to put out a request for proposals – why do you need to worry if you’re the only one who can do it?” the source said.

“Lamar Willis pushed it as if he was the Vice President of sales of the company.  Why on Earth would a Council Member get involved and try to sell a technical process for a company?” the source said.

“Where is the dire need for them to push this through so quickly?” he said.

“There are other companies out there with different technology that produce a different result, but they didn’t know because they didn’t go search,” he said.

The source also suspects that the City of Atlanta may have essentially stolen the information that his company provided to the City, and gave it to Fogfuels, because information contained in the Fogfuels proposal is unique information that he believes only his company had.

“We know they gave our information to this company,” he said.

Fogfuels was incorporated in January 2011, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website.  Paul Marshall serves as CEO and Secretary; Kevin Olson serves as CFO.

The legislation that passed Tuesday included two amendments: one that states that the location of the plant was “as yet to be determined” and another to clarify that it is authorizing the Mayor to negotiate a contract with Fogfuels, not to execute one.

(END/2012)

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