Tisbury considers privatizing trash and recycling service

Tisbury is considering turning over curbside trash pickup to a private operator. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Tisbury is considering privatizing the town’s curbside trash and recycling pickup service, according to department of public works (DPW) director Fred LaPiana.

Turning work now done by DPW employees over to a private company could save the town about $100,000 annually in labor costs and about $225,000 in capital costs for trucks that would not have to be replaced.

“We’re trying to stay ahead of the tough economy and still provide the best possible service we can,” Mr. LaPiana said in a telephone conversation with The Times Tuesday. “One of our providers of this service on the Island has offered us an option that is in the process of negotiation. It has opened up an opportunity to make our business a little more efficient.”

“We’re all looking at this as a team, from the board of selectmen to the board of public works commissioners, to the finance and advisory committee,” he added.

Mr. LaPiana said the private company offered to provide the same service at the same price, and on the same schedule.

“Someone will sell stickers, someone will pick up trash as scheduled, and someone will take recycling as scheduled,” he said. “Basically there would be no change in the service provided, in terms of frequency and process, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

If the proposal works out, the changeover would take place in the fall.

“We are seriously looking at the offer and have discussed it with the union, and it appears as if it is a viable proposal,” Mr. LaPiana said.

Using a private trash and recycling service would reduce the DPW’s manpower requirement by three positions, which Mr. LaPiana said would be vacated over time through attrition.

He estimated the town would save about $100,000 in labor costs, which come out of Tisbury’s tax base and not from trash sticker fees. Residents pay $4 a sticker for every 32- to 40-gallon barrel of trash collected.

“Trash sucks up a lot of manpower for us, especially in the summer season when so many folks are on the Island,” Mr. LaPiana pointed out. “We have to dedicate most of our staff, or at least half, to trash duty alone.”

If the proposal works out, he said, it would reduce labor expenditures significantly. That would allow the DPW to reallocate resources to other areas where manpower is short, such as roadwork, without increasing the budget.

It would also save the town money in equipment costs, eliminating the need to replace a refuse truck and recycling truck in the next few years.

However, Mr. LaPiana said Tisbury still needs to move forward with plans already in the works to purchase a much-needed new refuse truck.

“We can’t completely step away from the refuse business, because we have municipal needs to take care of, such as emptying trash barrels on Main Street twice a day and in the parks and cemeteries, and collecting trash at municipal buildings,” he pointed out.

At Tisbury’s annual town meeting on April 11 voters approved $112,000 to purchase a new refuse truck.

Mr. LaPiana said Tisbury has gone out to bid twice and revised the bid specifications on the truck twice in order to meet budget requirements.

On this round, the town went back to the original bid specifications, which called for a cab over truck the DPW would prefer, and reduced the acceptable model year to 2008, in order to keep the cost at $112,000 or below.

“We’ll open the bids for the third time on August 16, at 10:30 am, and then reevaluate,” Mr. LaPiana said. “Hopefully we’ll get a new truck within our budget.”