EDINBURG — The owners of three small companies that haul trash from county residents are worried they may be forced to shut their doors if the county follows through on a proposal to privatize the service.

Hidalgo County commissioners put out a request for proposals in May for a solid waste collection program, and based on its language, it appears the county is searching for a contractor equipped to handle the entire scope of the rural area.

For the owners of 3A Disposal, All Valley Waste and RGV Metro Waste, the proposal presents a problem. The small businesses — which provide curbside trash pickup for residents living outside city limits — are not big enough to compete for the bid.

“If you want to open up a company right now, you can do it” said Paula Villanueva, owner of All Valley Waste. “But once that RFP goes into effect and the county decides they only want one company, then the open market goes out the door, and so do we.”

County officials, however, contend it’s too early in the process to determine how many companies they will allow to operate in the county if they privatize the system.

“It is premature to say that the county is committed to contracting with one vendor for this project,” county officials said in a prepared statement. “The RFP states that the county reserves the right to make changes, award the proposal to one or to multiple vendors.”

But for Rodolfo Trevino, owner of RGV Metro Waste, the right to make changes is not enough to calm his nerves.

“In the RFP it states that we have to be able to do the whole county,” he said. “It’s very hard to believe stuff like that when you’re not seeing it on paper.”

The small businesses are no stranger to the issue. In 2013, they successfully fought Hidalgo County commissioners when they first attempted to privatize the system as a cost-saving measure.