Boca Growth Creates Necessity for Privatization!

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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.

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From the western suburbs of Chicago, Allan lived in Marin County, CA for 27 years before moving to Boca Raton in 2010 after retirement from the USPS. Degrees in English and history from DePauw and Northwestern give him broad perspectives for his Constitutional concerns. Having organized a union and fought government mismanagement as a union steward and newspaper editor, he also led hikes, wine-tasting trips, and literature-lovers' evenings, and served as Treasurer on his condominium board in CA. Now in FL he enjoys other activities that fill his life: house remodeling, ballroom dancing, Masonry, target shooting, synagogue, Tea Party, bicycling, and pickleball.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Our sanitation department is one of the best in the state. I suggest that we keep the annexation property as status quo. We also look into going single stream recycling to reduce workers comp claims,( 2 men picking up containers increase the number of possible back injures) reduce the number of workers because we would only need one worker to pick up recycles. Uniform the fleet because all the trucks would be the same. Mechanic training would be reduce to one type of garbage truck. Single stream recycling is being done around the state and is a very efficient way to do recycling. I have lived in Boca Raton for almost 40 years now. I remember after hurricanes how fast our private sanitation department cleaned up our city. Contracting out our sanitation department is a bad idea because we would lose control. Please keep our sanitation department.

  2. Mr. John Randle is expressed food for thought. Single-stream recycling is one of them. Front load trucks for our larger communities and sideload trucks for neighborhoods. Right on the same street the complex is situated there are opportunities to purchase land. Some of which house facilities that would be advantageous to the municipality sanitation and parks department. So is it that the City of Boca got too big for her britches or do we think outside of the trash can?

  3. One year to make a change is too short a time. Why not keep the status quo and renew or replace the contract(s) for annexed areas. Future possible solutions can then be studied properly.

  4. Since the city is looking at selling our golf course by the Turnpike, couldn’t they use a portion of this land to put up a maintenance facility and then sell off the rest of the land? This would solve one of the problems as long as they could rezone the land.

    Personally, I’m spoiled by the great service we have and would like to keep it.

  5. I find it hard to believe that a person retired from the USPS write this article. Does he say the same thing about the outdated USPS model of business operations? The door to door delivery of mail which is 90% junk is crazy. Think that every road basically is the entire country is driven down everyday to put junk in my box.

    I love our sanitation guys. You privatize and you will be down to one pick up per week and even on Saturdays. I’d rather pay a few extra bucks in taxes

  6. Well I guess the over development of our city is now getting the first of many consequences. Privatization of our services will only result in less and poorer services to the residents, At first we will be promised the world and then reality will set in. I am just wondering who will provide this service and where will they come from. I sure hope we maintain or professional trash pickup. I have lived here in Boca Raton for twenty five years and have total appreciation for our employees !

  7. Note that the presumably stock photo of a white guy tossing a garbage bag into a back loader garbage truck does not represent the way pick-ups are made here. Privatization equals profit-making (see privatized prisons, privatized airports, charter schools, etc etc.) and most often results in reduced and poorer service. I’ll sooner pay more tax than pay for private profit.
    More importantly, such a plan will hurt Boca’s black community which supplies the greatest part of our sanitation workers who perform this onerous work in our sub-tropical climate. In return they get decent pay and benefits from our municipality. The likelihood is that after one year this condition will change radically for these employees and will be much more devastating for them than what the writer blithely describes as “dislocations.”

  8. So its a 14% savings to privatize trash pickup. Will I see a direct 14% reduction in my taxes; I dont think so. Let’s take it a step further; if Staff has proportionately less responsibility; will salaries and benefits also go down, thereby lowering taxes even further? I dont think so. I am satisfied with the taxes I pay and the outstanding services they provide.

  9. Privatization is to be avoided at all costs. We were sold a bill of goods with annexation. Now we find we have to spend millions to accommodate the annexed ares!

    The private trash business is a dirty business ( no pun intended ).

    Our sanitation workers are the best long serving employees. Don’t throw them to the dogs of private haulers. We have known trustworthy City collectors. Do you want unknown workers going through our neighborhoos checking out who is home and reading our mail?

    When you shift to private haulers there is no going back as you can’t afford to buy all new trucks and the private contractors won’t sell you theirs. Then they raise your rates and we would be worse off than if City Council bites the bullet now and pay whatever it takes to keep our sanitation workers!

  10. The Vity has spent money to give all homeowner large heavy duty trash cans. The trucks have been either altered or purchased to accommodate the mechanical arm to lift these trash cans. Now council wants to privatize trash collection.
    Annexed areas have always had the benefit to follow either City or County zoning and building codes, whichever benefitted them. If we have to provide these former county areas with sanitation collection, they should have to adhere to all City zoning & building codes. Also these annexed areas should have to pay the same property taxes as all of City property owners into the Beach & Parks Tax Dostrict. Some annexed areas do not pay this tax. It’s about time there is equality between City property owners and former County property owners who have been annexed into the city over the years.

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