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Norwalk Council to Consider 'Privatization' Anew

NORWALK, Conn. – Just a month after Mayor Richard Moccia said he would not pursue a plan to outsource Norwalk's garbage collection, the city of Norwalk is advertising for bids.

Doug Hempstead, majority leader on the Common Council, said that is because of the tough times Norwalk is facing, including the $4 million shortfall in the Board of Education's 2011-12 budget. "Things aren't getting better out there and I think there's a reality," he said. "We need to properly review it without emotions and see if it makes sense."

The city won the right to outsource garbage collection in a binding arbitration award between the city and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2405, which the council accepted in late March . Although Hal Alvord, director of the Department of Public Works, says that outsourcing will save the city about $900,000 a year , there has been strong opposition by union members and their supporters, who say "It's not wise to privatize."

Republican Council member Joanne Romano has been among those saying they would vote against the plan. Democrats have said they oppose the plan.

"Quite honestly, based on the council's comments and listening to their thoughts in the meetings with them, it doesn't appear there's the votes there to outsource even though we won that right in the contract," Moccia said on April 13.

On Wednesday afternoon, the city sent out notifications by e-mail of a request for proposal for solid waste collection services . Submissions are due by 3 p.m. June 19.

"I think this is all going to come down to economics as long as nobody is going to lose their jobs," Hempstead said.

"There was a lot of talk earlier this year about this but I think it's all immaterial," said David McCarthy, chairman of the council's public works committee. "I think we need to get the best possible organization to collect the trash in the city."

Union members will have a chance to bid on the contract, according to McCarthy, who said he asked Alvord to give the RFP to the union. "I want there to be an very equal opportunity for the city employees to win this contract," he said. "I don't know if this has ever been done in Norwalk before but I know it's been done in the country, to give a fair, level competition, and I trust that our procurement folks will be up to the task of doing that. We're not looking to necessarily outsource anything. We're looking to get the most efficient organization possible to get the best deal for the city of Norwalk. If that's the current guys who collect the trash, God Bless them. They move on and everybody that we got the best possible scenario."

McCarthy lives in Rowayton, which has outsourced garbage collection for decades. He said that Rowayton, the Sixth Taxing District, pays $76 per stop for its collection while Norwalk pays $126 a stop for its city collection. McCarthy said he has no complaints with the service.

"The first thing we need to do is draw this line, and say, 'OK, what is the best thing for the city of Norwalk?' and how can we get there the most effectively," McCarthy said. "I personally think in America competition is a good healthy thing and it will hopefully it will inspire the union to come up with a good innovative solution that hasn't been thought of before, and that they win."

Moccia did not return an email asking for comment.

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