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Jeannette weighs privatizing trash pickup

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By Richard Gazarik
Thursday, May 9, 2013, 7:37 p.m.
 

The City of Jeannette is considering hiring a private firm to collect garbage but faces a legal roadblock with the union that represents its six sanitation workers.

Council has been barraged with complaints from residents who now must use garbage bags they purchase from the city if they want their trash collected each week. The sale of bags has earned the city more than $32,000 so far this year, according to a budget report.

Council voted Wednesday to solicit proposals from waste haulers to take over the service. But before it can abolish the sanitation department, Jeannette will have to negotiate with Teamsters Local 30, said city attorney Scott Avolio.

A provision in the union contract known as a “bargained for work” clause means the city cannot hire a third party and eliminate service without consulting with the union because outsourcing jeopardizes the employees' jobs, he said. The city approved a new contract with the Teamsters two months ago.

Two years ago, a state consultant recommended the city hire a private company, but council rejected the recommendation. The city's precarious financial position is forcing council to reconsider.

Avolio said a private company could hire some or all of the city's employees, whose city jobs would be eliminated. Employees who are not hired by the contracted company could be transferred to the public works department to work on the road crew.

Garbage collection has been an important source of revenue for Jeannette.

Councilman Bill Bedont said the city is owed $250,000 in unpaid bills and has hired a private firm to go after the deadbeats. City Treasurer Sam Casino, who now collects garbage fees, said after the employee assigned the task retired in 2009, council eliminated the position.

He said the city's efforts to collect overdue bills “fell by the wayside.”

“We give them delinquent lists every month,” Casino said.

Starting in July, the penalty for delinquent garbage bills will increase from 10 percent to 20 percent, he said.

The budget for sanitation this year is more than $556,000. The two biggest expenses are wages and landfill fees, according to a financial report. Wages have cost the city more than $59,000 so far, and landfill fees have topped $52,000.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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