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EM privatizes trash collection

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s office announced Nov. 14 the city of Detroit will privatize residential garbage collection beginning March 2014. Two companies, Advanced Disposal Services, of Point Vedra, Fla., and Rizzo Environmental Services, of Sterling Heights, Mich., will each handle half of the city’s waste collection. Although, the specifics of their contract with the city have not yet been finalized, the EM’s office has stated the companies will offer curbside recycling and bi-monthly bulk collections.

EM Orr’s Solid Waste Review Committee was in charge of selecting the companies. The committee included Gary Brown, former city council member turned EM-employee, the city department of public works director, the city purchasing director and a representative from the Greater Detroit Resource Recovery Authority.

According to a press release from the EM’s office, the committee used a 100-point sourcing process to evaluate bidders based upon innovation, capacity to provide services, experience on similar projects and cost to provide basic service.

Currently, Rizzo serves 31  communities in Michigan and believes they will be able to provide quality trash collection for Detroiters. “We’ve never lost a municipal contract,” Joseph Munem, director of public affairs and government relations for Rizzo Environmental Services told the Michigan Citizen. Rizzo does not own a landfill and intends on using the Detroit Incinerator to dispose of the trash they collect.  Advanced Disposal, however, operates a landfill in Northville, Mich. They could not be reached for comment on whether they intend to use the incinerator.

EM Orr pledges the two private companies will collect residential trash weekly before 5 p.m; provide citywide single-stream curbside recycling service, which is currently not provided to residents; restore bi-monthly bulk trash collection (currently bulk trash is picked up once a quarter); put a new, fuel-efficient fleet of collection trucks on the road beginning on day-one of the contract; and ensure job offers from Advanced and Rizzo for qualified current City employees whose jobs will be eliminated.

Additionally, once the transition to Advanced and Rizzo is complete, the EM plans to sell the city’s fleet of garbage trucks and use the proceeds “to fund a blitzing effort to clean up some of the worst cases of illegal dumping activity in the city’s neighborhoods and school areas,” according to a press statement.

The sanitation workers are currently represented by Teamsters Union Local 214. But when asked how Public works employees might be affected by the transition, Edward L. McNeil,  from the American Federation of State County and Municipal  Employees, a civil servants union, responded by questioning the validity of the EM system and its power to outsource services in general.

If city council still had sovereignty over municipal services,”you would have had a public hearing, before it was even outsourced,” said McNeil, assistant to AFSCME Council 25 President Al Garrett. “And in that public hearing you would have talked about how much it’s costing the city of Detroit versus how much revenue  (via property tax collection for solid waste disposal) is coming in, and if it made sense to privatize it in the first place.” McNeil encouraged the press to investigate what EM Orr alleges privatization will save the city. “Mr. Orr has a propensity to throw out numbers,” he said.

The 2012-2013 adopted city budget, available on the city’s Web site, shows the department of public works, which includes solid waste collection,  actually received surplus revenues of $108,836 over the amount it had budgeted to spend for the department. When EM Orr’s representative, Bill Nowling, was questioned how the budget surplus seemed to contradict Orr’s statements trash collection would cost the city $50 million, Nowling said the privatization plan would save the city money. He, however, did not substantiate the figure.

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