ATLANTIC CITY — State overseer Jeffrey Chiesa could go it alone and privatize the city’s trash collection himself after City Council balked at outsourcing the service.
Officials running a state takeover of the city said Thursday they’ll likely issue a statement next week on a contract that would put a private company in charge of the city’s trash and recycling services.
Council was supposed to vote Wednesday on awarding a three-year, $7.2 million contract to Gold Medal Environmental of New Jersey. But it pulled the resolution after some councilmen said they didn’t get a cost analysis.
“While we prefer not to take unilateral actions, City Council’s delay in approving a contract that will save the city significant money is concerning,” said Lisa Ryan, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs. “In short, we cannot let politics impact our work to stabilize the city’s finances.”
Council’s vote was postponed after some members said they didn’t get an analysis comparing the cost of the contract to what the city pays to do the services in-house.
“Between June 8 and today, we still have not seen a cost analysis,” Councilman Frank Gilliam said at the meeting, referring to the date last year when council voted to seek bids for the services. “Where is the savings for the city?”
Council President Marty Small and Jason Holt, the city’s former business administrator who now works for the state, said an analysis was included in a packet given to all council members before the meeting.
But other councilmen disputed this. Moisse Delgado said the packet had general cost figures but didn’t have an itemized list showing where the savings came from.
Small reluctantly pulled the resolution and later accused his colleagues of playing politics. Small and Gilliam are facing off in the June 6 Democratic primary, and a few council members are running for re-election.
“I really wish councilmen would, instead of grandstanding in public and pandering for votes during the election, I wish they would take the time to do their homework,” Small said.
Before the meeting, Mayor Don Guardian said in a statement the contract would save the city $1.1 million this year and would not require layoffs of city workers. “We still have other vacancies in Public Works that have not been filled since last June,” he said.
But the union representing the city’s blue-collar workers criticized the contract and questioned how it would save the city money.
Teamsters 331 President Marcus King said the city’s sanitation workers already perform other duties for the Public Works Department, such as street cleaning and snow removal. They haven’t had a wage raise in years, he added.
“I still don’t know how the city is saving money by contracting this work out, because their sanitation department is their Public Wwworks department,” he said. “They’re $10 an hour.”
Ryan said the state believes the city administration gave council “all the necessary information to make a decision on the contract.”
“Nevertheless, we will work with council to ensure they have whatever information they need and will likely issue a statement next week on the contract,” Ryan said.
Council meets again May 17, a longer than usual three-week gap between meetings.
The state has broad power over the city and can “pass, adopt, repeal, or amend any ordinance or resolution,” according to the takeover law, officially called the Municipal Stabilization & Recovery Act.
Such a move would be the first time the state used its power over the council, which Gov. Chris Christie credited last week for working with Chiesa to cut costs in the city’s budget.
Since taking over the city in November, the state has used most of its power on public-safety unions, seeking layoffs and imposing unilateral contract changes to cut pay and benefits for police and firefighters. The unions have challenged the constitutionality of those actions in court.