By JOHN T. WARD
Citing inadequate savings, officials said they would rewrite bid specifications for the privatization of trash collection to include a provision that a successful bidder hire the town’s affected solid-waste employees.
The delay sparked sparked an extended and sometimes heated exchange among Republican council candidate Sean Di Somma, borough Administrator Stanley Sickels and two councilmen over what Di Somma called “foot-dragging” on an issue he believes could save taxpayers money.
Sickels said the five bids submitted in late August “didin’t reflect the level of savings we had anticipated.” He didn’t disclose details.
The town is expected to spend close to $1 million this year on trash, including roughly $520,000 in salaries and another $380,000 in landfill fees, according to the current budget.
The bids also “did not reflect any rehiring” of DPW workers who might lose their jobs in a switch to private cartage, said Mayor Pasquale Menna.
“Usually, there’s an obligation for a successful bidder to hire somebody who may have been impacted,” Menna said. “This is standard and common, and it’s not included in these bids.”
The absence of that provision in the rejected bids was seized on by Di Somma. Chastising the Democrat-controlled council over both the level of planning and time that the process was taking, Di Somma called the absence of the rehiring provision a “failure.”
Councilman Mike DuPont countered that it was an “oversight.” Sickels said it was a “choice,” which DuPont later echoed.
Di Somma pressed for details on the whether the administration had prepared a cost-benefit analysis it could use to evaluate the bids, as well as for insight into the process.
“What were the cost savings? Who determines what was not enough?” he asked. “The way you guys have been spending money, I’ll take anything.”
Councilman Ed Zipprich, the council’s liaison to the DPW, said the department had seen its number of employees picking up roughly halved in recent years, from 15 to 8, as a result of attrition, and that “a lot of job-sharing” presented a challenge in developing a cost analysis.
“But there was a plan,” he said. “We know what it costs to do trash ourselves, so we could compare it to the bids.”
Zipprich and fellow Democrat Juanita Lewis are defending their seats against Di Somma and Republican Linda Schwabenbauer in the November 4 election.