Committee opposes garbage privatization in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

The committee sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council members outlining their concerns. City Council Member Clint Olivier thinks they make a valid point. "The committee is basically looking after the rights of the ratepayer, and they offer a new wrinkle in the debate and they have found privatizing commercial solid waste here in the City of Fresno would end up costing the ratepayer more and they are recommending against it."

The letter from the committee reads in part; "We do not recommend the privatization of commercial solid waste ... It is reasonably probable that privatization will lead to rate increases that are out of proportion to the true costs of delivering the service."

City Council Member Lee Brand disputes the committee's findings and doesn't believe rates will increase. "I disagree with their recommendations I think they've made a little bit too political of a statement."

The city administration freely admits the goal of privatization is to make money. By selling off what is now a nonprofit city service to private companies they figure the city can collect $2.5 million a year in fees, they can use to shore up the city's budget deficit.

The two private companies that would take over would supposedly save money because they would use only one person for each garbage truck, instead of the two man crews used by the city.

The city claims the private trash companies, Allied Waste and Mid-Valley Waste would buy all of the city's trucks and hire most of the city's drivers, for at least six months. The union representing the drivers says they would receive considerably lower pay and benefits. Mayor Swearengin says that if privatization doesn't go through, other city employees will have to be laid off.

Joe Hill has worked as a garbage collector for nine years. He'd like to keep his job thinks the city could find more creative ways to make money. "If you notice on the FAX Buses, there's advertising all over the FAX Buses we've got 125 solid waste trucks why can't we advertise on our solid waste trucks ... ABC30 Action News, right there. On the side of the truck."

The city currently takes in almost $500,000 a year on bus advertising.

The City Council is expected to vote on privatization next week. The council is divided. It's expected to come down to the vote of one city council member, and the letter from the Utility Advisory Committee could tip the balance.

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