BEECH GROVE, Ind. - The city of Beech Grove is spending $8,350 on a contract to count garbage cans.
Mayor Dennis Buckley is under fire because the no-bid contract is with Wessler Engineering, a company that donated $800 to Buckley's mayoral campaign.
Citizens are also upset because volunteer groups offered to do an inventory of the garbage totes free of charge.
"The Beech Grove Helping Hands group volunteered our services to go around and count these trash cans, but the administration was not interested," said Pam Stallard, a Beech Grove citizen of 10 years. "I campaigned with Mayor Buckley and he's turning out to be a spend, spend mayor, which I did not expect."
Buckley told the Call 6 Investigators the project is necessary because the city was losing money when residents moved to another city or lost or damaged their totes.
"We didn't know who had what, what'd been walked off with, nothing," said Buckley, who estimated the city paid $110,000 for totes over the past six years. "There was no accountability."
Buckley said using a volunteer group was not the answer.
"What happens if something gets damaged, or if someone gets in an accident, then I might be held accountable," said Buckley.
The city did not bid out the project, but city ordinance says contracts under $10,000 do not require a bidding process.
Contracts over $10,000 require at least two bids, Buckley said.
"This company was selected because they have a powerful reputation with the city and they do good work," said Buckley. "If I had to do bids for everything I wanted to do, I'd be so bogged down I wouldn't be able to function."
"I think that's absurd," said Anthony Davidson, R-Beech Grove City Council. "I think it sets a bad example for Beech Grove. If the mayor wanted to save money, we could have sent it out to bid and gotten some estimates at least."
Davidson criticized the mayor because the original Wessler Engineering contract was approved Feb. 19 for $16,000, which violated the ordinance requiring two bids for contracts over $10,000.
The mayor renegotiated a new contract with Wessler Engineering, which came in under $10,000 and was approved on March 4.
"I make tough decisions all day long and sometimes I don't make good ones," said Buckley. "I made a bad decision, but I apologized for it and I've corrected it."
Wessler has already completed the count, which found 4,314 garbage totes in the city at 3,510 properties, or 82 percent of the properties in Beech Grove.
The contractor was not allowed to go outside of the public right-of-way to get the trash tote identification numbers.
Buckley said it was the council's idea to do a garbage tote inventory in the first place.
"This is good work for us," said Buckley. "The tote number will show up on your bill every month and then we can start tracking where these are. When people lose totes, now we have a grasp of what's going on."
Davidson said he believes the inventory was a good idea, but he believes it could have been done for less money, or even for free.
"It's a perfect example of reckless spending, to me," said Davidson.