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Warwick, Rhode Island

Keywords: Residential Trash Collection, Competitive Bidding

Residential Trash Collection

In the spring of 1992 the Mayor of Warwick, Rhode Island, decided to privatize sanitation and recycling services. In spite of strong union opposition, the plan was approved by City Council and a Request for Proposals (RFP) for trash collection and recycling was issued. The winning bid came from Truk-Away of Rhode Island (later known as United Waste Services) who was awarded a five year contract for the service.

Truk-Aways contract ended in early 1997, and the city again solicited bids for the trash service. The RFP attracted bids from five private firms and a sixth bid from the citys public works department. The city won the five year contract with a bid price $1.1 million lower than its closest private competitor.

The winning proposal was a joint effort of the mayor and city council, the finance director, the city solicitor, the public works department, and AFSCME Local 1651. Under the new plan, all trash collectors work together as a team, with drivers collecting trash in addition to driving the trucks. When a truck is full, only one person drives it to the landfill; the other worker is taken to a different route to help the two workers on that truck collect trash faster.

Twenty-two new full-time employees were hired to provide the service. The city also acquired 14 new trucks, since its old equipment was sold to Truk-Away when the service was privatized in 1992.

The citys contract with public employees is similar to the previous private contract in that the city can terminate the agreement at any time. If it doesnt work we have a fall-back position, and thats important to the taxpayers, said Councilman Al Ferruolo. In addition, the service will again be put out to competitive bid again in 2002. Our own workers, theyre going to be accountable, said Council Member Richard DeGregorio, because they dont want to lose the business in five years.

Case based on correspondence and newspaper clippings from Joseph R. Peckham, Business Agent for RI Council 94, AFSCME.