Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Garbage: privatize, subcontract or automate?

Here's the decision Toledo City Council faces when it comes to garbage collection:

1) Automate the vehicles and reduce the number of workers it takes to run a route from three to one. This would require the issuance of notes to purchase the new trucks and other equipment, but it would save, according to the administration, $3 million.

2) Issue a Request For Proposal and then award a contract (or several) to private companies to provide the service. Savings are not known.

3) Eliminate the government program, refund the taxes used to pay for the service (roughly $12 million/year) and let citizens contract for their own services on the open market.

I just cannot conceive of the third option going anywhere - primarily because the city will never give up on the jobs (though most if not all refuse workers would find work in the private sector as local companies expanded to meet the new demand) or the revenue. And while this would be my first choice, I don't believe the city will refund the monies being collected - so Toledoans would still be paying a significant amount of money, but would no longer be getting a service while having a new bill for the private contractor.

Which means the real choice is between options #1 and #2. There are going to be pros and cons for each of these, but both cannot be pursued at the same time - at least, not if saving money is the priority.

Last night, council approved an ordinance to issue $9.6 million in notes for new carts and cans. The administration said this needed to be done regardless of the option for going forward. (corrected 2-5-09)

Additionally, new vehicles are necessary (whether more of the ones we've been using or the automation type) because the city has ignored regular replacement of the trucks, resulting in what has become an 'emergency' need - at the worst possible time in the city's financial condition.

However, if subcontracting can give Toledoans the service for less, why would we purchase new garbage trucks? Why wouldn't we just issue the bids and not worry about going into debt with capital items of a limited life?

The questions I didn't hear during last night's council meeting were about the comparison of costs between automation and sub-contracting. As far as I've been able to tell, no fiscal analysis has been done on the two options - and if it was, it has not been shared with the public. Council members have the ability to require such analysis/comparison/report prior to voting - but they didn't.

This is just another example of council not providing oversight of the budget for which they have authority.

True, the administration doesn't actually have to issue the notes immediately, so there is still time to gather the necessary data. But before the city goes any further, I certainly hope the fiscal comparison of the two options is made available to the public, since it seems the public is more willing than most of council to ask the tough questions.

9 comments:

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

There was another question that I never heard asked. It was, "How is it that all of the garbage trucks in the city are failing at the same time and why weren't there ongoing efforts to replace these vehicles on a regular basis to spare the city this now massive infrastructure cost?"

I am too old to believe in coincidence, and this looks far too suspicious.

Maggie Thurber said...

Tim - maybe because the city used its limited capital improvement dollars to build bike paths instead of doing regular maintenance/replacement of necessary city equipment?

Or because money that should be going to the vehicles was spent on the Erie Street Market and paying debt on the Commodore Perry hotel and others?

The possibilities are endless when it comes to the wrong priorities on spending....

2Bn11FA said...

Wow, Maggie, you just gave me a great idea. Why not have Residents bring their trash/garbage to the Erie Street Market and dump it inside the bays? Then you have a couple of guys (city workers) scoop it into trucks and take it to the landfill! you need fewer workers and fewer trucks to run everything from that one central location. The other benefit is that we finally have a legitimate use for the ESM! Problem Solved!

Mad Jack said...

1) Automate the vehicles and reduce the number of workers it takes to run a route from three to one. This would require the issuance of notes to purchase the new trucks and other equipment, but it would save, according to the administration, $3 million.

Although it's illogical to do so, I'll criticize the source. Since when has this administration provided an accurate estimate on anything involving money? I want a second opinion from a city in the Northern Mid-West who has gone through this process and has enjoyed over five years of success and savings using automated garbage trucks.

2) Issue a Request For Proposal and then award a contract (or several) to private companies to provide the service. Savings are not known.

Maybe the saving are not know, but savings can be easily calculated just as soon as a few bids come in. So long as the city contracts with more than one company, this might be the best option.

3) Eliminate the government program, refund the taxes used to pay for the service (roughly $12 million/year) and let citizens contract for their own services on the open market.

Which is fine for some parts of the city, but not so much down on, say, Floyd Street. Garbage mountains will grow and convenient garbage dumping areas will be established. Think about the vacant buildings or misnamed 'green space' in the area. Then, where there is garbage there will also be... rats and other vermin. Now back in the bad old days a few kids could take their .22 rifles down to the dump and endanger the health of the local rat population. These days that kind of dangerous behavior might give Carty the excuse he's been looking for to expand Toledo's SWAT team by mounting a set of fifty cals on the city helicopter.

Too bad the various neighborhoods in the city couldn't decide independently about trash collection.

Lisa Renee said...

Last night was to issue the notes to buy the carts and garbage cans, not "to issue $9.6 million in notes for the new vehicles." It's hard to believe it costs 9.6 million dollars for that, but? That's what they are going to spend.

Which means they are not going with the plan to eliminate garbage service by the City since the argument was even if they went to subcontracted private haulers the City would still own the carts and trash cans.

I'm not in favor of the third option if it was being seriously considered, I could see where that would be an enforcement nightmare as well as dueling garbage days. Some of the smaller areas that have done that have gone to a subcontracted system for that very reason.

From what I understood in last night's council meeting the truck purchase decision will not be held until there is a cost per household evaluation done which probably would require RFP's.

Maggie Thurber said...

Lisa - thanks for the clarification - I'll correct the post.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

Who said that the trucks are worn out and that ALL need to be replaced?

These trucks are only ~6-years old; the previous trucks were much older.

Or, was someone (Franklin) coerced into saying (perhaps by "duh mayer")that we need to replace all of the trucks?

Forgive me, but I see an agenda here. . .

And, what's with us buying the cans? Wouldn't a private company either provide or specify which cans the wanted you to use?

Maggie Thurber said...

Hooda - you're expecting logic and reason...from Toledo government, no less...

:)

Hooda Thunkit said...

Maggie,

I apologize...

Sometimes when I'm thinking, I get carried away by the logical reasoning process ;-)

But something about this whole thing still smells, and it ain't garbage...

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