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Published: Sunday, 7/20/2008

City of Toledo seeking cost estimates on privatizing trash service

BY BRIDGET THARP
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The city of Toledo is seeking estimates on the cost of privatizing the city's trash collection services.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's administration is seeking proposals on a five-year contract to collect trash in all or part of the city, starting in April, 2009, according to an announcement posted on the city Web site Friday.

George Sarantou, chairman of City Council's budget committee, said the notice doesn't mean the city will definitely switch from city-run garbage collection. He said the request for proposals is aimed at evaluating the cost of private pickup.

"Any prudent leadership in a Midwestern city today has to think outside the box, has to think of different ways to deliver city services and save money," he said.

City Council will likely consider how to reduce the cost of collecting trash in September after results on the automated trash collection pilot program are reported, Mr. Sarantou said.

Julian Highsmith, commissioner of the city division of solid waste, wrote to Teamsters Local 20, the union representing trash collectors, on Thursday to announce the city request for bids.

The city "is facing financial challenges in the General Fund. Therefore, the division is looking at different options and methods in cutting our costs, along with providing the citizens with the services that they are accustomed to having," Mr. Highsmith wrote in the letter, addressed to Chuck Collinson, business representative for Teamsters Local 20.

Mr. Collinson could not be reached for comment yesterday.

According to the request for proposals, the contractor would bill the city, based on the number of units served, and the kinds of additional service provided, such as recycling and yard waste collection.

It was unclear whether a switch to private trash collection would affect the city's trash collection fee.

In May, about 7,500 homes were included in the automated trash collection pilot program.

The option of expanding automated trash collection nearly citywide is still on the table, Mr. Sarantou said.

City officials have maintained that city workers won't be laid off as the trash collection program changes. Any of those 100 trash collectors who do not retire may be offered jobs in the utility department, Mr. Sarantou said.

Still, finding ways to save is the bottom line, Mr. Sarantou said.

"The leadership of the city, including this councilman, is dead serious about cutting our expenses. We have got to cut our expenses with the price of gasoline going up," he said.

Contact Bridget Tharp at:

btharp@theblade.com

or 419-724-6061.



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