A few weeks back, Barrington Town Manager Peter DeAngelis offered some advice to officials in Bristol. He said it was time for that town to seriously consider privatizing its refuse and recycling collection, just as Barrington did about two years ago.
Now the head of the Barrington Department of Public Works laborers’ union wants to offer some of his own advice to Bristol: Don’t privatize.
Carlos Pedroza, a veteran employee for the Barrington DPW, said the savings promised by the town manager have not been realized, and pointed to the manager’s schedule for replacing refuse and recycling trucks. He said the manager’s plan for savings included hundreds of thousands of dollars the town would have spent on new trucks each year had the service remained at the DPW. Those numbers were not accurate,” Mr. Pedroza said.
“We never buy five trucks in three years,” he said, referring to the figures included in the recent article. “If somebody went in there and said let me see the numbers, we basically bought one truck every five or every six years. Five trucks in three years? That’s unheard of.”
When Barrington first discussed privatizing refuse and recycling collection, officials drafted documents to show how much it would cost taxpayers to contract with the private company, Mega Disposal, and how much it would cost to continue offering the collection service in-house at the DPW.
The two sides in the debate — the manager’s office and DPW laborers’ union — agreed on most of the figures included, but differed on how frequently the town purchased new trash trucks. The manager said the capital budget showed a replacement schedule of one to two trucks per year, while Mr. Pedroza and other DPW employees said vehicles were replaced at a far less frequent clip.
The difference between purchasing one or two trucks in a year versus one truck every other year could make all the difference between saving money with a private collection service or the taxpayers spending more than they would have with the in-house DPW service.
“If they put the real numbers in there, you wouldn’t see the big savings,” Mr. Pedroza said. The manager has said that the numbers included were the most reliable figures available.
The Barrington DPW laborers’ leader said Bristol town officials should “really do their homework” when investigating privatizing collection services. He said that when Barrington went to a private contractor the town eliminated eight full-time positions at the DPW. Some of those men who had been slated for termination kept their jobs when some long-time employees retired early. Others found work in the school department. “These are families involved. With the way the economy is, it’s tough out there,” he said. “They should really do their homework.”
Mr. Pedroza said that privatization has not gone exactly according to plan. He said part of the agreement called for all Mega trucks to be examined at the DPW headquarters on Upland Way before heading out onto the route, but that does not happen.
The town manager has countered saying that the transition between in-house and private has been seamless, adding that residents have been happy with the increased recycling collection — the town used to pick up recycling once every two weeks, now Mega collects recycling every week.