Apparently Mayor Ballard, before he leaves office, wants to commit Indianapolis to as many long-term leases—if he cannot sell City assets cheap—as possible. His latest contract is with a New Jersey waste management corporation—we neither make these things up nor need to make them up. Okay, so the fictional Tony Soprano ran a waste management company in “The Sopranos.” Tony was an environmental sort of guy.
The pitch of Covanta, the company in question, is that they turn waste into energy. That’s kind of a neat idea. But, like any Ballard-esque effort, there are catches with the contract.
One example is that if new technology is developed for conversion of waste to energy in the next 14 years, Indianapolis—the taxpayers—will have to pay liquidated damages to Covanta for the upgrade. This technology is almost a certainty as the United States has lagged, compared to the World’s advanced economies, in energy technology. After all, on one day in June, Germany generated half its electricity from solar energy—solar.
We should return to the contract with Covanta. Fred Biesecker, counsel for the City-Couny Council, issued a memo that criticized the one-sided nature of the agreement. In regard to the new technology provision just mentioned, Biesecker wrote, “This provision clearly protects Covanta from future competition, but it is hard to see how it benefits the city.”
For more details, read Gary Welsh’s blog at Advance Indiana, “Ballard’s Long-Term Recycling Agreement with Covanta Is Criminal.” Once again, Gary provides coverage of a local issue the daily newspaper used to provide.
There also is a website, Covanta Watch, that reports interesting details about Covanta.
I would encourage the City-County Council to examine carefully any contracts Ballard and his pals seek to push through. The negotiation skills of his people are rather bad—unless, of course, those individuals have jobs lined up already at the companies with which the contracts are negotiated. Then, from another perspective (that of the company), those skills are peachy-keen.
The time period, or “life”, of a contract entered by a public entity should not extend longer than the term of office of the person responsible for its negotiation—or whatever term would be applicable to Ballard. In the meantime, the initial reaction to announcement of a new contract from the 26th floor of City-County Building should be to block. It takes time to read a contract carefully.