This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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Dan Grippo, Boca Raton Municipal Services Director, explained the current serious problem of in-house solid-waste collection at the 6/12/2017 Boca Raton City Council Workshop Meeting. Past growth and projected 2017-2020 City growth of 6500 new residential units—an increase of fourteen percent—combine to render the municipal services complex even more inadequate. Current use of the services complex for maintenance and repair of both trash collection and police vehicles has almost doubled since it was built; it is now simply too small. Finding and retaining qualified drivers and mechanics has also become a major problem with the excessively high turnover that results from daily long hours of work.
The City currently provides solid-waste collection from residences only. Commercial properties contract their own trash removal from private companies in the competitive market. The City contract for the annexed residential areas with a private solid-waste removal contractor expires at the end of 9/2018. Consequently, the City Council must take action and implement changes before 10/2018.
Grippo proposed three alternative possible courses of action; doing nothing is not an option.
First, the City could try to maintain the status quo of providing “in-house” operations for residential trash collection. This would require major changes now since the City would also take over collection for the annexed areas by 10/2018. At least four more routes would be needed, and the City would have to purchase up to sixteen more trucks for all the new service. Since there is no space to expand, the municipal services complex would require reconfiguration, costing from $8-10,000,000. Plus, an additional four vehicle repair bays would be required. Thus, the City would need an additional ten-acre site for new facilities, and spend additional millions of dollars to acquire the land and to build those new facilities.
However, no land is available for the City to purchase an expanded maintenance services complex. Several hours earlier in the previous meeting, some speakers had no problems using the power of eminent domain to seize privately-owned land to build a new parking garage. However, no one suggested that the City use that power to take over a golf course, park, school, beach, or City land to build a more-urgently-needed new vehicle maintenance facility. This reality alone leads to the more practical alternatives.
Second, the City would privatize residential solid-waste collection by contacting with an independent company. Neither the complex maintenance facility reconfiguration nor additional off-site land acquisition would be required. If past practices elsewhere are followed, the City would sell its trucks to the contractor and the employees would be guaranteed jobs, wages, and benefits for a year with the private contractor. The City would not have to pay liability insurance, workmen’s compensation, or fuel costs with privatization. The City would be able to control costs better by tying the contract to the Refuse Rate Index, which currently varies around three percent per year. Private-service haulers generally cost substantially less than the current rates paid by Boca Raton residential owners, and those cost savings would flow directly to the Boca Raton residents. Examples around Palm Beach County verify those potential residential cost savings.
Third, in addition to a residential contract, the City could also create a requirement where all businesses would have to go through the City’s private contractor. Boca Raton businesses probably would not like the City depriving them of their current freedom to compete for the best solid-waste company by creating a government-controlled monopoly for them. A monopoly-contract private trash hauler would prefer this third alternative because they generally make more money from commercial units than residential ones, and they would benefit more from captive businesses. That process could take three years since the City would have to honor current commercial contracts with existing private haulers.
Grippo said that the City Council would have to make a decision next month, in 7/2017, since any alternative would require time for implementation before 10/2018. Two City Council members asked questions that indicated that they did not fully comprehend all the issues, so they will have to learn fast to make an intelligent decision soon.
Rapid growth of Boca Raton into an ersatz “world-class city” has created a situation where privatization has become the only practical alternative in this condition of lack of available land. Only the current employees will suffer the greatest dislocations, but they should have at least a one-year guarantee of wages and benefits. If the City does not also establish monopoly contracting for Boca Raton businesses to deprive them of their current choice of contractors, everyone else in Boca Raton could benefit by this privatization.