Public Works Employees Speak Out Against Privatizing City Waste Services
Roughly 30 people, many wearing green shirts and holding signs, urged council members not to approve a managed competition process for bidding out solid waste services.
Wearing a green American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) shirt, Kevin Brown stood outside the steps of City Hall before Monday night’s city council meeting. With him were roughly 20 public works employees prepared to speak out against the possibility of privatizing the city’s solid waste services. Many of them were wearing the same green shirt and holding signs.
“We’re fighting for our jobs,” said Brown, who was born and raised in Annapolis and has worked in the city’s refuse services for 23 years.
As Patch reported in September, city officials have proposed a “managed competition process” to determine whether to continue using city staff or contract out city waste disposal services.
Monday night, it was up to the city council to give their approval to move forward with that process.
Joining Brown at City Hall was James Bovis, armed with a sign that said “Proud to be an Annapolis City Employee. Down with Privatization.”
“If they can do it to the refuse department, they can do it to anyone,” said Bovis, who works at the city’s water treatment plant, before the meeting.
Before making a vote, council members heard testimony from about six people who spoke on the issue.
City resident Tony Evans urged the council not to contract out the service, emphasizing the impact it would have on the current employees who work hard at what they do. “If we want to save money, let’s stop the hemorrhaging in the Market House,” he said. That comment got cheers from the crowd, many of whom stood up to express their support.
“We care about our jobs, Mr. Mayor,” said Howard Johnson, Jr., a lifelong Annapolis resident and city refuse worker.
He emphazised that many of his co-workers are life-long residents, often working in difficult weather conditions. He noted that they would do a better job than outside workers who don’t live in Annapolis and don’t care about the city.
The Timeline and the Vote
Before the vote, City Manager Mike Mallinoff outlined the proposed process and timeline.
“We have a timeline that we needed to meet and what we wanted to do is go through this process such that the administration would have the opportunity to review the RFP, make a recommendation to the council in the budget for the mayor and the council would have the opportunity at that time to review the recommendation and choose to support it or not with [an] implementation of on or around July 1 of 2012,” Mallinoff said.
Alderman Kenny Kirby (D-6th Ward) said he couldn’t be a part of a process that could lead to the loss of these workers' jobs.
“I’m not gonna take any bread off anybody’s table,” he said, imploring Public Works Director David Jarrell, who is leading the city’s proposal team, to come up with the lowest bid.
“To have this coincide with the budget puts us in a really awkward place, because then we’re only looking at dollars. We’re not really looking at the value of the service, but we’re looking at balancing the budget,” Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson (D-4th Ward) said.
Alderwoman Classie Hoyle (D-3rd Ward) asked how much money would be saved by outsourcing the service, if all things were equal.
Mallinoff said while this is difficult to answer he thinks the range is “a couple hundred dollars difference per customer.”
Alderman Fred Paone (R-Ward 2) said he would reluctantly support privatization if he’s not happy with the amount of savings.
“I think we owe it to the tax paying citizens...to investigate this and to play out the possibility.”
The council ultimately approved to continue with the managed competition process. Six members voted yes and Kirby, Finlayson and Hoyle voted no.
“I think that the process, even though it’s uncomfortable and even though ... it’s gonna be very difficult to come to work everyday with this uncertainty hanging over people’s heads, I think the process ultimately is going to be a very helpful one for the city, “ Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen said before the vote.
Cohen said the council will have the final word on the matter.
According to a memo distributed to the council, the rough timeline for the process would look like this:
- Advertise Request for Proposals- Nov. 22, 2011
- Due Date for Proposals- Dec. 30
- Cost and Technical Evaluation for proposals- Jan. 2-20
- Recommendation of sucessful proposer- Jan 20
- Negotiations with that proposer late January through mid-February
- Mayor’s Budget presented to Council- March 12