PAWTUCKET — Saying there are too many unanswered questions, the City Council on Wednesday voted 6 to 2 to support a resolution calling for an inquiry into the proposal to privatize the city's trash pick-up services before any action is taken on the matter.
The efforts by the Grebien administration to apparently soon enter into a contract with a private waste hauler was the topic of lengthy discussion, with a majority of councilors calling for more information. Several councilors were also critical of the way the privatization is being handled by the administration, which is choosing to bypass the council's approval in favor of that of the Purchasing Board.
The council had granted a request from Local 1012, the union representing the city's sanitation workers, to make a presentation of its latest proposal in support of keeping the trash services in-house at an Oct. 24 pre-council meeting. Yet, Mayor Donald Grebien has indicated that the contract with MTG Disposal, a Seekonk, Mass.-based vendor, is scheduled to be considered by the Purchasing Board one day earlier, on Oct. 23. Citing a legal opinion from the City Solicitor, Grebien maintains that the contract does not need to be approved by the City Council, just the Purchasing Board.
Councilor Thomas Hodge, who proposed the resolution, said he was “disappointed and a bit dismayed that the administration is moving as quickly as they are.” He said he recalled receiving just one e-mail containing the results of the RFP and doesn't think the council is as informed as it should be.
Hodge further noted that the council had been given a presentation by the vendor that eventually took over operations of the city's waste transfer station, and questioned why MTG Disposal had not done a similar presentation for the council. He said he has many questions about the privatization including the effect it will have on the city's “tipping fees” at the state landfill, what “escalators” are involved if fuel and other costs rise, how the vendor contract will affect the union contract, and what happens if the vendor ever goes on strike.
“This council is not against privatization, but we want more information and for our questions to be answered,” said Hodge. He maintained that the City Charter allows the City Council to have an inquiry into operations such as trash pick-up that are funded through the city budget, and said he drafted the resolution with this in mind.
Read more in our print edition.