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City stands by own workers, no outsourcing trash pickup

If you thought outsourcing city trash pickup was a done deal, you’re not alone.

In fact, council was on the verge of signing a franchise agreement with WastePro USA Tuesday night.  But in a move that shocked sanitation workers who jammed council chambers at the 11thhour, council backed its own workforce 5-0.

“Completely unexpected vote,” Chuck Ridley said as workers hugged and celebrated in the foyer. “The history of this city has been people over profits,” he said earlier to ask council to reconsider signing the contract.

“I stand on the side of these employees,” Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke said before what would be a unanimous vote.

“Our residents have spoken,” agreed Mayor Scott Singer.

Men wearing work clothes or Florida Public Services Union T-shirts stepped to the podium to speak up for their jobs. “We have a bunch of guys with families,” said Anthony C. Herring, tearing up.

Residents and other town’s public officials showed up just to vouch for them, or against outsourcing city services.

“They’re here for us,” even in hurricanes, said resident Steve Griffith.

“If you have to raise our fees, I’ll pay to keep trash in-house,” said former Boca city councilman Mac Conahan.

Once you sign a contract “you have no control over your services or personnel,” said James Bonfiglio of Ocean Ridge, who ran for the state house.

The city started having outsourcing talks in 2017. It considered how much growing the fleet, the workforce and parking and maintenance facilities would cost, said assistant city manager Mike Woika. He made a detailed cost and services comparison for the life of the contract.

But the cost differential wasn’t enough to sway council. And more pickups, even on holidays, wasn’t enough of an argument.

“We don’t want to put our trash out on holidays and there’s more kids out then, too,” said Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers.

Council thanked WastePro for its professional presentations. “I started on a truck when I was 16. We care for our workers, too,” said the company’s Russell Mackey.

By Marci Shatzman

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