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Board postpones action on proposal to privatize city’s sanitation service

By Bill Short

Flag City LogoThe Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has voted unanimously to postpone action on a proposal to privatize the city’s residential sanitation service.
Board members took the action during their Aug. 10 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Thomas McGhee and seconded by Alderman Mike Caruthers.
The board had previously issued a Request for Proposals to purchase the city’s trucks for residential sanitation and yard waste, as well as “all owned carts.”
The RFP also requested proposals to provide residential sanitation service that would include garbage and yard waste, as well as hiring city employees currently working in that area.
The board had considered it in the “best interest” of Millington and its residents to sell this equipment and privatize these services, while the city would retain the related Customer Service and billing functions.
Four companies had submitted proposals by 10 a.m. on June 4.
During discussion shortly before the vote, Caruthers called it “a management issue.” He suggested that the board postpone action on the proposal “for a year” to give City Manager Ed Haley and the Public Works Department a chance to fix the problem.
While noting that he had re-read the detailed study conducted by The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service, Caruthers said it is “clear” that the city can fix the problem.
“I’ve lived all over the world, and this is the best Sanitation Department I’ve ever worked with in my life,” he said, eliciting applause from the audience. “Can it be better? Yes. Let’s give them a chance to fix it.”
Mayor Terry Jones said he had discussed the issue that morning with Public Works Director Jimmy Black and Sanitation Supervisor Rodney Stanback, who also think it is something that can be fixed.
Alderman Hank Hawkins asked whether Haley could give the board a “status report” in mid-May 2016.
“It’s not quite a year,” he acknowledged, “but it’s close. That would give us some time.”
Caruthers said it would be “very appropriate” to have MTAS “re-do” its just-completed study, and Alderman Frankie Dakin said it would give the board “clear, quantitative goals” for where it needs to be.
While commending Jones for initially “commissioning” the study, Dakin noted that the board has never received any complaints about the service provided by the Sanitation Department.
“The MTAS report identified some issues with efficiency,” he said. “We have those numbers. So, I think we can move forward, make those changes and re-evaluate in mid-May 2016.”
While acknowledging that privatizing was a “consideration,” McGhee said the board had not “determined” that was the way it would address this issue.
Because the study pointed out “deficiencies,” he said it emphasized a need for the board to examine how it is doing “the trash business.”
“It would be irresponsible for us as elected officials to disregard a study of the type that was commissioned, done and presented to us,” he noted. “So, we’ve taken the steps to evaluate how we move forward.”
McGhee said companies and organizations all over the world have used “right-sizing” as a way of improving efficiencies. He noted that Millington has benefited from the federal government’s right-sizing in the form of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
When the board talks about right-sizing, McGhee said, it is not expressing dissatisfaction with the employees who are performing their duties.
“We have absolutely the best trash pickup I’ve ever seen,” he noted. “I’ve lived on Navy bases all over the country, and they weren’t as good as the city of Millington.”
But McGhee said the city has a responsibility to increase or improve efficiencies where it can.
“So, I’m in favor of taking a look at improvements that we can do in-house,” he concluded. “And do what we can next year, if we have to do something.”

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