By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Boca Raton will keep collecting its residents’ trash.
The city council unanimously opted to keep the service in house rather than franchise a contract out to Waste Pro.
“I think this is one of the hardest decisions that we have had to face,” Commissioner Andrea Levine O’Rourke said. “We pride ourselves and tout ourselves on being a full service city. Once we give it away we don’t get it back.”
The pitch from Waste Pro would have provided more days of service, more customer service, newer vehicles and higher wages for employees.
Regardless of who is picking up the trash, city officials said residents will be paying more for the service. It is unclear what the price increase will be, but the city estimates spending $3 million per year for 7 years to replace equipment and to hire more staff. There are currently 10 vacancies in the department.
In addition, the city will need to spend at least $5 million to increase its garage where it stores vehicles and equipment.
Residents and city sanitation employees urged the council to continue the service in house and the council agreed.
“Keep Boca Raton, Boca Raton and run by Boca Raton,” resident and former council member Cormac Conahan said. “We have, in my view, the best trash collectors. They are wonderful people.”
Boca sanitation employee for 19 years Anthony Herring said going private is not the way.
“I love working for Boca,” he said. “I love this job.”
Councilman Andy Thomas said residents have shared the stories about the relationships they have with their sanitation collectors. He said it is a department that performs well and the city shouldn’t give that up.
“We pride ourselves on having world class municipal services,” Thomson said. “This department is one of our best. I think it should stay in house.”
While the emotional pleas played a factor, so did the financials. For councilman Jermey Rodgers and Mayor Scott Singer, the difference in cost was not big enough to privatize the service.
“It’s not that big of a difference,” Rodgers said. “The math doesn’t really support a change.”
Mayor Singer ended off the comments before voting by saying, “Don’t mess with success.”