The Jefferson City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to deny a yard waste and compost site contract with Korte Tree Care after public disapproval from residents and one local competitor regarding its location across the Missouri River bridge.
The contract would have been for one year of service with four additional automatic renewals. By the end of the fifth year, Korte Tree Care would have earned $1 million from Jefferson City for hosting a yard waste and compost drop-off site.
The service, located at 1129 Cedar City Drive, would have been free for residents, who would also have had the option to pick up compost and mulch free of charge. The city has provided a compost drop-off site since 2010 and a yard waste drop-off site since 2013, both of which were originally through All Seasons Landscaping.
Lee Alford, owner of Alford Tree Service, has gone to city hall several times since with concerns regarding Korte’s business holding this particular city contract.
Last month, Alford approached the council to state that Korte’s business should not have the contract due to Korte Tree Care’s location across the Missouri River bridge. He said residents will drop and lose large tree limbs on the highway, leading to more car crashes.
There is a size limit stated in the contract of six inches in diameter and six feet in length for tree limbs and brush. The contractor also accepts grass clippings, wood chips, leaves and Christmas trees.
Alford said he’s seen large tree limbs and other obstacles on the highway near the current site at All Seasons Landscaping, which holds the current $984,000 contract from 2018.
Korte said he’s never seen that when he drives on the same highway and he doesn’t expect many residents will have incredibly large amounts of yard debris or mulch. In his experience, Korte said, most residents haul a few large bags in the back of a pickup truck.
Steve Dinolfo said he would prefer the city extend All Seasons Landscaping’s contract because he believes the owner provides good service and he would prefer the site stay in the middle of Jefferson City. He also said he expects to see an increase in residents burning yard waste as some people may believe burning is easier than driving across town.
Another local man, Mel Kahlel, agreed with keeping the site away from across the river.
“I will not cross the river,” Kahlel said.
Darrel Bryan also approached the podium with concerns regarding Ray Wallace, the city’s former forester. He mentioned that Wallace was involved in a bid tabulation process and recommended Korte’s business for the service. Wallace currently works part-time for Korte, though Korte and several other city staff have stated Wallace was not part of the yard waste contract.
“I think citizens ought to know why the Parks and Rec contract went the way it did,” Wallace said.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Erin Wiseman chose to momentarily leave the meeting at that point because she said she did not want to be a witness in a legal suit.
At the last council meeting, Korte said he would go forward with legal action against Alford unless Alford publically retracted the statements regarding and apologized to Korte. Korte recorded several of the public statements and said that his attorneys relayed to him that a lawsuit would take three or four years and $50,000 per lawsuit.
Korte said he cares more about his reputation than $1 million.
“I do not want to accept this contract if even one person thinks we cheated to get it,” Korte said.
Director of Planning and Protective Services Clint Smith said Wallace was not involved in the bid tabulation process for this contract, as he retired in early April, before the request for bids closed.
“Mr. Wallace had no involvement in the reviewing and no involvement in the scoring of the bids,” Smith said.
Korte also said he doesn’t see a problem with having a dump site in Cedar City, despite Alford’s concerns that it could affect whether the business stays open during inclement weather.
Alford also attended a council meeting in July with concerns about how much time had passed since the bids for this contract closed. He said more than three months to determine which of three companies receives a contract is too long and that he was unable to learn about the bidding process from city officials despite reaching out several times.
Smith provided a timeline for the bid process and said that, during the months in which the bids were closed, no information was able to be made public.
Alford’s landscaping company bid for the city’s contract back in April, along with Korte and All Seasons Landscaping. Alford bid $1.7 million for five years and All Seasons Landscaping bid $1.3 million. Korte included two proposals — one of which cost about $5,000 more. The city chose the slightly more expensive of Korte’s options, which was still about $700,000 less than Alford’s bid.
The contractor charges between $10 and $15 for non-residents of Jefferson City and for commercial operators in and outside of city limits.
Korte’s proposed hours of operation for summer were 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday. In the winter, this would change to 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday; the site is closed Saturday and Sunday.
Alford said this is unfair for residents who work during the week and that his business is better suited for this contract since he is open for more days and for longer.
Ward 2 Councilman Aaron Mealy said he’s sorry to Korte, who said he’s been accused on social media of corruption and shady business practices.
“You did everything fair and followed the rules. We’re supposed to show businesses that we’re here to do business. I’m having a really hard time,” Mealy said.
Ward 2 Councilman Mike Lester motioned to direct staff to negotiate a one-year contract extension with All Seasons Landscaping, preferrably at the same price. Ward 4 Councilman Randall Wright seconded.
All but Ward 5 Councilman Jon Hensley, Ward 5 Councilman Mark Schwartz and Wiseman voted yes.
Schwartz and he is strongly against this choice. He said that requests for bid were sent out for a reason and that it makes no sense to change that.
“That, essentially, to me is a no-bid contract and I’m strongly opposed to that,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said that while he sees the value in having a yard waste and compost drop-off site, he does not see it a need for the local government to fund.
Lester said the drop-off site is very popular and it assists with keeping the landfill from filling up as quickly. Ward 3 Councilman Scott Spencer suggested reaching out to Republic Services, the company that owns the landfill and collects trash in Jefferson City, for funding on this contract either through a donation to the city or another contract.
East Dunklin Street parking
The council also voted to reinstate street parking along East Dunklin Street, more than 10 years after having it removed.
The bill adds seven parking spots on Dunklin near Marshall Street, three near Cherry Street and four on Marshall Street near Johnson’s Barbershop and Beauty Salon.
There will be two spots directly in front of the community center and five directly across the street. There will also be three across the street in front of the church.
Members of the Jefferson City Community Center and the Second Christian Church approached the Transportation and Traffic Commission in June to demand the city allow street parking again.
The city removed the street parking in front of the community center in 2013 after adding a left-turn lane to the intersection of Marshall and East Dunklin.
Members of the church and community center said they were not informed of this decision and that they don’t feel valued in Jefferson City due to this. Mary Simmons, who serves on the board at the community center, said in June she found a home at the community center and now it’s significantly more difficult for her to access that home.
City staff returned to the commission with recommendations on how to remedy the residents’ grievances. The commission and community center/church members agreed on a solution that would keep the left-turn lane, which staff members said is necessary due to the amount of vehicles that turn left at this intersection, and allow street parking near the organizations.
City staff agreed to submit before the council an amendment to the city code, which restricted parking on East Dunklin Street between Lafayette and Marshall streets, and add 10 untimed parking spots to the south side of the street.
Public Works Director Matt Morasch said this was a simple and low-cost solution that will benefit the city’s residents.
Seven Johnson, owner of the barbershop, also approached the commission in March to request more street parking near his business on Marshall Street. There were eight 90-minute parking spots and a 100-foot 15-minute loading zone for those dropping off students at Capital Early Learning Center.
This bill converts the loading zone into four 90-minute parking spots. Notification was provided to the Capital Early Learning Center of this change; staff said nobody from the day care center has reached out with objections.
City staff members estimate the cost to modify the street signs and markings to be about $2,000.
Creek bank stabilization
The council also approved a $79,240 contract with GWH Landscaping for a creek bank stabilization project at Lake Valley Drive.
GWH will build and install a retaining wall for $64,120 to guard a sanitary sewer main that runs between two residential properties. The bill summary states that the wall, made from steel and concrete, will protect a pressure forcemain and a gravity sewer from eroding further.
Morasch said this creekbank was stabilized previous riprap.
Funding for this project will come from the wastewater division’s enterprise fund account. Cole County Public Works will also reimburse the city $15,134 for the rail “for purposes of protecting the public,” according to the bill summary.
GWH bid against three other construction companies: Gene Haile Excavating bid $140,340, Don Schneiders Excavating Company bid $117,120 and Stockman Construction bid $116,245.