City pays more for trash collection, citing service issues

City pays more for trash collection, citing service issues

WOONSOCKET – The City Council signing last week of a new contract with Waste Management, the city’s current waste disposal provider, came despite an annual cost difference of about $175,000 between the company and the next-highest bidder.

According to bids submitted to the city, Waste Management is expected to charge about $1.75 million annually for trash and recycling pickup, yard waste collection, household appliance pickup and bulky item disposal based on the city’s current pickup rates. Over the three-year life of the contract, costs for the five services are expected to total about $5,252,790.

A bid submitted by MTG Disposal, the only other company to bid on the contract, estimates those costs at $1,575,213 annually, or $4,725,639 over three years. The difference between the two contracts for base services is a little more than $175,000 annually, or about $527,000 over three years.

If the city renews for two optional one-year extensions under similar rates, local taxpayers could end up paying close to $880,000 more over five years for the Waste Management contract.

The vote was taken at the recommendation of the city’s Department of Public Works. Director Steven D’Agostino defended the decision in comments to The Breeze last week, pointing out that in the 13 years the city has used Waste Management as its disposal provider, the department has received minimal complaints.

“Nothing irritates a resident more than when their trash is not picked up on time or properly or whatever,” said D’Agostino. “And I can tell you in six years (as public works director), that’s almost a nonexistent complaint over here.”

D’Agostino pointed out the new contract is about $27,000 less per year than the city currently pays Waste Management.

Those comments echoed a bid analysis provided to councilors by the city’s Solid Waste Department. According to the analysis, Waste Management has provided a high level of service since 2007, when the city first switched to automated waste collection. In addition to offering good customer service, the analysis said, the company provides “valuable education” to residents and staff members and participates in touch-a-truck events, school science nights and the Autumnfest parade.

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The analysis also describes three phone calls made to towns that currently use MTG Disposal’s services, two of which returned negative reviews. A bulleted list of complaints describes the company as having missed stops, communicated poorly, and customer service issues that place additional workloads on municipal employees.

A third town that used MTG Disposal said they were satisfied with the service and reported no major issues.

MTG Disposal did not return a request for comment, but the company’s bid package included several 2015 letters of recommendation from local municipalities, including North Providence and Pawtucket. D’Agostino said he could not comment on whether the city spoke with representatives of the towns that submitted letters or different towns that use the company’s services.

The analysis also refers to MTG Disposal’s decision to suspend yard waste collection during the COVID-19 crisis, pointing out that Waste Management has continued this service with no issues. In April, The Breeze reported that six local communities were without yard waste collection for several weeks after MTG Disposal was forced to suspend the service due to employee shortages.

“It is the recommendation of this office, in keeping within the city’s rights as listed within the RFP and what we feel is in the ‘best interest of the city,’ that the City Council award the bid for municipal refuse collection to Waste Management of Rhode Island, Inc.,” the analysis states.

City councilors agreed, voting unanimously in favor of the contract. Both Council President Daniel Gendron and Councilor John Ward thanked the department for its detailed analysis and expressed their approval.

D’Agostino told The Breeze last week he’s satisfied with how the process turned out.

“You can’t put a price tag on quality,” he said.