Borough privatizes collections

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NAUGATUCK — The borough’s trash and recycling will be picked up by private companies starting July 1.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses voted 8-1 to approve two contracts Tuesday night that will privatize collections in Naugatuck. Burgess Laurie Taf Jackson was the only burgess to vote against both contracts.

The five-year contract for the curbside collection of municipal solid waste and recycling was awarded to Oakville-based Copes Rubbish Removal. The contract starts at $777,518 in the first year and rises to $889,931 over the life of the deal.

Copes will also purchase three garbage trucks from the borough for $566,000 as part of the agreement.

The board awarded a five-year contract for municipal dumpster collection services to Enfield-based USA Hauling and Recycling, which will start at $71,714 and rise to $74,378 over the life of the contract.

Collections have been performed by the public works department.

The move is expected to save the borough about $485,000 over the next five years. The borough would have spent $928,000 to collect trash and recycling next fiscal year alone, according to officials.

Public Works Director James Stewart added the borough would need to hire an additional three employees if the collections were kept in house.

There are currently five employees who collect trash for the department, Stewart said.

None of the workers currently employed by the borough will be laid off. Union and borough officials have agreed to a no layoff clause through 2015. The plan is to cut positions through attrition.

Mayor Robert Mezzo said the decision to move to private trash collection was not facilitated by the work of the employees.

“This change to a privatized trash collection is in no way reflective of your value to the borough. It is more reflective of the costs of an ever-changing industry and also the difficulty in providing that service,” Mezzo said.

Taf Jackson said she voted against the contracts because of how privatized trash collection would impact the employees. She was concerned the employees would see fewer hours and less pay.

Taf Jackson was also concerned about the future of the trash collection in the borough.

“They say it will save money for five or 10 years, but what about after that,” Jackson said. “Other towns have done privatization and they have reverted back to collecting it themselves.”

The idea of looking into privatizing trash and recycling collection was recommended in the borough’s long-term strategic plan, which was completed last year by the consulting firm Blum, Shapiro & Co.

The approval of the contracts came less than a week after residents voiced concerns on the issue at a public hearing April 30.

Resident Ruth Harrison said she’s against the change because the current drivers are part of the community and Copes comes from outside the borough.

“These are people who have lived here and worked here for us. Now you’re asking us to have somebody who is not part of our community come in and collect for us,” Harrison said during the hearing. “Will these people [Copes employees] who don’t know us be a part of us? No one has that answer.”

Harrison said when she was injured the drivers helped her move the trash and recycling barrels to and from her house on collection days. She was concerned that the drivers from Copes would not be as accommodating.

Harrison said she was not concerned with the cost going up if it meant the borough was able to keep the trash and recycling collection system it had.

“I don’t care how much it costs, really. I know that’s probably an arrogant way of looking at things. I can afford it,” Harrison said.

Resident Henry Rau questioned why the privatization cost increased less than the municipal costs.

Stewart explained it was primarily due to increases in health care, workers’ compensation and salary.

“I still feel you can control cost better with the employees you have,” Rau said.

Resident Chris Walsh voiced concerns about what would happen to the cost after the contracts with the private companies run out. He argued if the borough moves towards privatization, it would most likely never move back to municipal trash collection.

“You’re not going to drop $900,000 on trucks. That’s just not going to happen,” Walsh said.

Borough Attorney Ned Fitzpatrick said the borough worked out a deal with Copes that the next five years after the contract expires would be based on the Consumer Price Index.

This means that the company can not raise the rates for the borough beyond the average market rates, according to Fitzpatrick.