Its contract with the city of Denver, a hazardous materials cleanup company that has played a central role in cleaning up homeless camps, was extended by the city council on Monday night for two more years.
environmental hazing services, Based in Wheat Ridge, Has signed a contract with the city since 2018. One of its main functions is to dispose of things, as the city cleans up non-domestic, especially items that pose a public health risk such as chemical and medical waste and drug paraphernalia. In 2020 the city added on-call “rapid response” services to EHS contracts.
Advocates for Denver’s non-domestic community opposed the extension, arguing that EHS performances and staff behavior during the sweep should disqualify them from further work with that community.
Denver Homeless Out Loud said it has collected complaints about EHS not complying with its obligations to store and care for people’s belongings after the sweep. Dunning said staff member Benjamin Dunning said the effects for non-domesticated people included “loss of ID, loss of drugs, birth certificates and so forth”.
“It just makes a life that is already harder and more frightening,” he said.
Several members of the public also spoke out against EHS, and council members questioned city employees about billing discrepancies and unprofessional conduct by workers. But the city council passed the extension 11-2 on Monday.
The contract remains at the original $6 million that was settled in 2018 to be worked out over the life of the deal, though City doesn’t expect it to reach that limit until October 2023. $1.57 million has been paid to EHS since 2018.
EHS could be used to clean up hazardous waste at Civic Center Park, after a complete closure to the public this week, a city official said on Monday.
During the sweep, Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure typically dispatches two city waste management employees, accompanied by two to four EHS hazardous waste specialists, department spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn said in an email.
Kuhn said that after the sweep, EHS runs a downtown storage facility, where they keep people’s belongings for 60 days. The facility is open 16 hours a week. The city has spent between $200,000 and $300,000 to EHS to staff the facility since 2018.
During the public hearing segment of Monday’s meeting, Denver resident Harmony Cummings said she had found through a public records request that EHS was billing the city for four hours of work time when off-duty Denver police. Officers who provide security during sweeps are only scheduled for 2.5-hour shifts.
This gave councilwoman Robin Neech a second thought.
“I was prepared to pursue this contract tonight, but if we have a billing discrepancy it’s not resolved,” she said.
Counselor Kevin Flynn noted that these types of scheduling and payment arrangements are common for particular shifts in contracts, and did not see it as a disqualification.
Dunning alleged earlier in the day that the EHS throws away items that need to be kept and doesn’t adequately track where the goods go, making them harder to retrieve – if a person does it within their business hours. During may build up in storage facility. He estimated that less than half of those attempting to retrieve their belongings from the facility are able to do so.
EHS president and general manager Marty Green did not return a request for comment on Monday ahead of the council meeting. City staff members said that he did not personally attend that meeting due to a medical appointment.
Andy McNulty, attorney who is representing Denver Homeless Out Loud and others a class-action lawsuit On the city’s treatment of non-domesticated people, said EHS is a defendant in the lawsuit.