PAWTUCKET— It’s official. The city has a five-year contract with MTG Disposal LLC to handle its sanitation and recycling services.
The news wasn't unexpected. Mayor Donald Grebien had actually signed the contract to privatize the city-run trash and recycling services on Feb. 15, so all that was left were the legalities. The City Council was given a chance to review the document at its last meeting. However, the administration had made it clear they intended to move the privatization forward, so beyond raising some concerns about implementation, councilors were left primarily to just thanking the city workers for their efforts and to requesting neighborhood meetings to educate residents about the new sanitation services.
In a letter to the council this week, members were informed that the fully executed contract between MTG Disposal, LLC, of Seekonk, Mass., and the city had been received on Wednesday. They were also told that implementation of the sanitation services, which will be preceded and accompanied by a public information campaign, is targeted for May 8. It also stated that City Council President David Moran has agreed to participate in the planning process for implementation.
Under the contract, MTG will provide refuse and recycling collection services in the city of Pawtucket through a five-year agreement that totals roughly $11 million. The city would pay the contractor $2,132,000 in year one, $2,174,640 million in year two, $2,218,133 in year three, $2,262,496 in year four and $2,307,746 in year five.
The agreement calls for the contractor to collect refuse at least once a week and do automated recycling collection every other week. The contractor will also be providing recycling totes at each location. Additionally, MTG has agreed to maintain public liability and property damage insurance that protects both itself as the contractor and the city and its officers, agents and employees from any and all claims, demands, actions and suits for damage to to property or personal injury, including death, arising from the contractor's work under the agreement.
The agreement states that the contract shall be administrated by the Director of Public Works, and at his sole discretion, a designee of his choosing.
Moran told The Times that the council had raised some concerns and questions about the privatization, but didn't get the sense that there were any avenues to stop it. He said he didn't think the council would be asking for any kind of injunction to be filed against the contract, instead leaving any such action to the union. “I just don't see anything changing,” he said.
Moran said that since the administration obviously wants the private sanitation services in place, he volunteered to be the council's representative for the implementation process. “I want to be there to get my two cents in,” he added. “The most important thing, if this is going forward, is to make the transition as smooth as possible for the residents.”
Moran added that there is a meeting scheduled for Friday with DPW Director Lance Hill and all of the other involved parties at the DPW facility to discuss the way the trash and recycling services will be handled under the vendor contract and how to best educate the public about the program.
While the Grebien administration has pledged that there will be no layoffs of DPW workers under the privatization, and says that MTG has also offered job opportunities, the union representing the city's sanitation employees is still exploring possible legal action to block the vendor taking over sanitation services.
Union members have continued to express their anger and displeasure at the administration and its privatization efforts, both at meetings and through on-line postings. The union has sought to convince residents that the costs of trash and recycling services will be higher in the long run under privatization than it would be under the city's control, and that the level of service would be better with city workers.
Augie Venice, president of Local 1012, told the Times that he had a meeting scheduled with the City Council's Ordinance Committee late Tuesday to discuss various ordinances regarding transfer stations, refuse collection and general provisions of the workers' existing contract. Venice said there are several sections of various ordinances pertaining to sanitation services and/or recycling that he thinks are being violated by the city's hiring of a private vendor the way the language is written.
Additionally, Venice noted there is language in the current bargaining agreement stating that “no person outside of the bargaining unit shall perform bargaining unit work.” “We consider that MTG is “people” and they are 'performing bargaining unit work,'” stated Venice.
Venice noted that now that the contract has been signed, the union has 10 days to file a grievance. He added that “a lawsuit is definitely an option” as the union looks to protect its workers.