The town’s department of public works will continue to collect trash in Bristol and privatization will not be considered at least for another year.
That decision came even after the Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council, an independent, non-partisan public policy research and education organization that looks to promote efficiencies in government, recommended otherwise.
“If all positions were eliminated there would be a $1.6 million savings over five years,” said Ashley L. Denault, director of research for RIPEC, of the town’s trash collection duties. “If all staff were to be retained, there would be no savings.”
RIPEC examined the DPW for efficiencies based on its current level of staffing, duties performed and those outsourced, and the costs associated with the maintenance and replacement of trash vehicles. These costs were measured against bids obtained in 2011 when the town first discussed the option of privatization.
Members of the town council questioned Ms. Denault if the numbers she projected accounted for the current staff’s ability to provide services such as snowplowing and other duties when needed, in addition to their assigned responsibilities.
“There’s no good way of accounting for that,” Ms. Denault said. “These numbers are very squishy.”
After listening to RIPEC’s report, Town Administrator Tony Teixeira decided not to move forward with outsourcing.
“I ask for indulgence for at least one more year for an opportunity to look at the options more thoroughly,” Mr. Teixeira said.
The town council, as well as DPW director, Jim Galuska, supported his decision.
“I think that’s the right thing to do,” Mr. Galuska said.
Cost savings are something that he and other department heads are faced with on a daily basis. However, Mr. Galuska’s concern is that if a private company were to provide trash collection services, customer satisfaction could suffer.
“I worry about the level of service,” he said. “Our satisfaction rate is in excess of 98 percent. We get very few calls. If something goes wrong, we send out another truck. If you make a decision based solely on financial, it may not always be the best decision.”
Mr. Galuska said that he didn’t find any obvious flaws with the RIPEC study, but there are intangibles that are difficult to factor.
“They did a nice job. They were tasked with analysis. It’s up to the town to make the decision,” he said.