ATLANTIC CITY — Angry workers and residents criticized the state’s move to privatize trash collection Wednesday night during a long public-comment portion of a City Council meeting.
The meeting came two days after officials running a state takeover of the city bypassed the council to approve a three-year, $7.2 million contract to Gold Medal Environmental of New Jersey, a company in Gloucester County.
Tasha Prescott, a sanitation truck driver, became emotional speaking to the council. She said she makes $12 per hour and described tough working conditions.
“For the things that we endure and do out there, I don’t think any entity in the state of New Jersey would do what we do on a daily basis to clean the streets of Atlantic City,” Prescott said.
“Making the money I make, nobody can do that job for less than $12 an hour,” she said.
City officials say the deal will save the financially-troubled city $1.1 million this year and won’t require layoffs. Sanitation workers will fill vacant positions in the Public Works Department, city and state officials said.
The council tabled a vote to outsource the service three weeks ago after some council members said they never received a cost-savings analysis.
The city administration’s cost figures came under more scrutiny Wednesday by council members, residents and city workers.
“These numbers are bogus,” said Frank Turner, a sanitation worker for more than 15 years.
City and state officials said 29 sanitation workers would keep their jobs, but the union representing them was skeptical.
“I’m asking you, nicely, can we get that in writing?” said Marcus King, president of Teamsters Local 331. “Because without civil service, nothing stops you from laying off.”
Later, state Local Government Services Director Timothy Cunningham confirmed the state takeover law suspended civil service requirements when asked by Joyce Mollineaux, chairwoman of the city Democratic Municipal Committee.
The meeting was supposed to serve also as a public hearing for the city’s slimmed-down $206 million budget. But nearly everyone who approached the dais referenced the sanitation contract.
In bypassing the council, state officials said, they needed to get savings for the cash-strapped city as soon as possible. The state takeover law gave state officials authority to pass or repeal any council resolution.
“I did not have confidence that the City Council was going to act on it tonight,” Cunningham said.