GLOVERSVILLE — Department of Public Works Director Chris Perry said the city’s decision to hire a private garbage hauler will allow his department to eliminate four DPW jobs through attrition, saving the city $225,000 in salary and benefit costs every year going forward.
The Common Council voted 5-2 on Feb. 23 to contract with Clifton Park-based Twin Bridges Waste and Recycling to take over for the city’s six-man garbage collection service.
Mayor Vince DeSantis and the proponents of the deal have argued that converting the city to a private hauler will save the city at least $500,000 over the four years of the contract and city residents will see improved service with garbage pails provided to them by Twin Bridges and collection occurring five days per week instead of the current four-day system.
“I’m confident that the public will be pleased with this change,” DeSantis said. “It’s going to save hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. The whole thing is based on looking at the numbers and seeing where we can be more efficient and provide a better service. There is no downside to this. It’s a win-win for the people and a win-win for the city’s bottom line.”
But most of the public hasn’t seen all of the numbers the Common Council used to make its decision to hire Twin Bridges: including important figures such as the total estimated cost of paying for the private hauler, and a breakdown of where the city will achieve the greatest savings.
The roll-out of information explaining the garbage privatization has come under criticism from William Rowback Jr., who announced his intention to run for the Republican nomination for mayor on Tuesday.
Rowback made the garbage privatization and the way information was presented to the public about it one of the main focuses of his announcement speech. He said as mayor he hopes to create jobs “not do away with jobs” referencing the elimination of the DPW positions.
“The residents of the city of Gloversville had very little information,” he said. “And when the residents wanted to speak on it, it was already too late we had already had the vote.”
The Feb. 23 Common Council meeting was conducted via the Zoom video conferencing program and the public comment portion of the meeting was held back until after the vote on privatizing the garbage service. Normally, during in-person public meetings, the public comment portion of the meeting is held prior to votes on new legislation.
Rowback and his staunch political ally 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio both voted against the garbage privatization, citing their concern that the public was not given enough information before the vote.
Rowback said he’s not sure whether he would want to replace the eliminated DPW worker jobs if he was elected mayor, or whether or not he’d favor extending the city’s contract with Twin Bridges. He said he would hold town hall meetings and then do what he thinks the public wants him to do.
The city’s four-year deal with Twin Bridges can be canceled near the end of each year without penalty to the city, making it effectively a one-year deal with three optional one-year extensions.
Perry had presented the Common Council with a cost benefit analysis, including the cost of not filling four DPW jobs, during executive sessions to discuss the contract with Twin Bridges held between Oct. 20, when the city opened the competitive bids for the service and Feb. 23, when the council voted on the plan.
First Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss said the council was obligated by law not to discuss the details of the executive session meetings until the council voted on the contract. She said the idea of privatizing the garbage service was talked about many times over the last six months and was covered in newspaper articles in the Daily Gazette, Amsterdam Recorder and Leader-Herald and discussed on WENT radio’s Talk of the Town. She said she thinks the Zoom meetings may have hindered the process.
“There was never any effort to hide information from the public — we’ve been talking about this for months,” she said. “Everyone has done the best they could on this, and I think the public will see this is obviously a good deal for the city.”
New York state’s open meetings law does not require a public hearing before a local government votes to approve a contract with a private garbage hauler.
Determining the total cost and savings from the garbage privatization involves multiple factors.
Perry said over the past four years Gloversville’s DPW workers have had 13 work-place injuries, and 11 of them were related to garbage collection, which requires a six-person team to provide curbside pickup four-days per week. He said privatizing the garbage pickup will enable him to reassign at least two workers to other tasks like road repair and clearing catch basins of debris, two high-priority areas.
Three of the four DPW positions Perry plans to eliminate are vacant now from retirements in 2020, and the fourth is expected to retire in August, leaving Gloversville with 25 DPW workers. “We can’t go below that,” Perry said.
DeSantis said he expects the DPW workers reassigned from the garbage pickup duty will be happier doing other more interesting jobs.
“Picking up garbage is kind of boring,” DeSantis said. “It probably smells bad the whole time you’re out there, and you’re lifting heavy objects. It’s not a pleasant job, and I think most of them are looking forward to doing things that are more interesting, and they will get more job satisfaction from that.”
Perry said he expects to see cost savings from fewer injuries and more efficient DPW services in other areas, but those are hard to quantify.
DeSantis said Gloversville will pay approximately $740,000 in the first year for the private garbage service, which is about $60,000 less than the total cost of the city-run garbage pickup.
Perry said the $740,000 figure is on the high-end of what the cost is likely to be. He said in the first year of the service from May 1 to April 30, 2022 Twin Bridges will charge Gloversville $8.50 per month for each single family, two family and three family dwelling that takes advantage of the service, each being provided at least one 95 gallon garbage pail. He provided this breakdown of the Gloversville housing stock affected by the garbage privatization:
- 3,013 single family homes
- 2,360 two-family households
- 267 three-family households located in 89 3-family structures
He said if a dwelling asks for two 95 gallon pails, the city will pay an additional $8.50 charge for the second pail. Smaller 65-gallon or 35-gallon garbage pails can be requested, but they will cost the city the same amount.
The per house collection rates will rise to $8.59 per household in 2023, to $8.77 per household in 2024 and then to $8.95 in the final year of the contract in 2025.
DeSantis said the city only received bids for the garbage collection service from Twin Bridges and a company called County Waste, but only Twin Bridges’ bid conformed to the city’s bid specifications which limited the amount the cost could increase each year to 1 percent.
Twin Bridges and County Waste have been engaged in high-profile litigation against each other, each alleging unfair and deceptive business practices as the two companies compete for expanded territory.
DeSantis said he and the council were well aware of the ongoing legal disputes between the two companies, but he has no knowledge of the specific details of the lawsuits. He said Twin Bridges received good customer reviews from customers the city called when checking its references.
Perry said the city will continue to pay the annual tipping fee cost of $33 per ton to dispose of the garbage at the Fulton County Landfill. He said the highest number of tons of garbage disposed of out of Gloversville in recent years resulted in a total tipping fee cost of $190,000.
Perry said the city has 3 garbage trucks, one of which was purchased recently for $225,000, and one that should be taken off the road.
“The two that we have now, with them being used less frequently, it will prolong the life of those by another five or 10 years, since we’re not doing daily garbage collection,” he said. “So, we’ll use them throughout the year for different purposes here and there, and we won’t have to buy a new garbage truck for a very, very long time.”
The freed up garbage trucks will be used for an expansion of the city’s bulk garbage collection program, Weiss said, which will now run on a year-round schedule, beginning on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 and continuing on every Wednesday rotating through all six city wards with the city providing the service all 12-months beginning in 2022.