Jobs promised to trash haulers

The Newport Beach City Council guaranteed Tuesday after a closed-door session that the city's garbage haulers would be offered another job if the decision was made to contract with a private company to provide trash pickup.

The announcement was made to the many residents who had filled the council chambers to tell the city representatives why they wanted their trash haulers to stay in their jobs.

Newport Beach is the only city in Orange County where city employees collect the refuse, yet the council was expected to vote Tuesday night on whether staff should proceed with pursuing a contract, drop the issue or wait to gather more information.

As of the publication deadline Tuesday night, the council had not voted on how to proceed.

Apprehension mounted throughout the meeting, beginning with the introduction of the man who would deliver the invocation.

"We're going to need a good one," said Mayor Keith Curry.

Sample trash bins marked WARE and CR&R; — the two leading bidders for the outsourcing contract — had been placed outside the chamber to show residents that they would still be able to use the same variety of container even if the service provider changed. The display apparently was intended to help ease concerns that the level of service would sharply decline under outsourcing.

Audience member Jim Mosher noted that those in attendance had probably prepared and rehearsed remarks they wished to offer council members and urged that the three minutes usually allotted speakers not be reduced.

"I say this because there is a crowd here," Mosher said. "I trust and hope that they will be given their three minutes tonight."

Staff members praised the work of the current trash-pickup workers but said that certain fiscal pressures called for change.

Many have been saying that the city should not fix something that isn't broken, said city manager David Kiff, adding, "Well, we're going to show you how some things are broken."

The city needs to look at the issue not because of any concerns about the current quality of service but because the city faces immense pension costs in the future, he said.

As much as $17 million could be saved over the next seven years, according to a recently released review of proposals submitted by companies interested in taking on the work.

Mayor Keith Curry nonetheless assured those present that jobs would be guaranteed for the trash workers if the council chose to outsource the service.

"The City Council is committed to taking care of our guys if we move forward with the contract," he said.

Employees would be offered the choice of staying on with the city in a different capacity, working for the contractor or retiring, according to the agreement reached between the city and employees.

Curry then opened the floor for public comment. Many residents urged council members to think more about the issue before voting on a course of action. They said they doubted the accuracy of information provided in the analysis of company proposals and reiterated the value of the relationship they have with the current workers.

Several speakers said the pickup process would be aided by more automation. Currently, the workers pick up trash by hand.

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