Evanston’s sanitation team may finally have achieved what has seemed impossible — to get a sanitation job done with city workers for less than it would cost to have a private contractor do the work.

Evanston’s sanitation team may finally have achieved what has seemed impossible — to get a sanitation job done with city workers for less than it would cost to have a private contractor do the work.

The Administration and Public Works Committee on Monday night is to review a staff recommendation to have city crews do recycling work now handled by a contractor but contract out refuse pickup work now done by the city crews.

An Evanston Now analysis of the plan suggests it will yield a monthly cost for recycling of a few pennies per household less than the current contract while saving about $1 per household per month on refuse pickup costs.

The plan includes cutting the number of city garbage trucks assigned to the program from 11 to 7 and reducing the number of people assigned to work on them from 13.5 to 7.

Sanitation Superintendent Suzette Eggleston says that because the total volume of material to be recycled is less than the amount of refuse destined for landfills, the city can restructure its collection routes by switching to handling recycling.

The city now runs five two-person refuse truck crews. Because each crew can fill a truck at least twice a day, the city now has the crews swap trucks at midday so they stay busy, and has an extra driver take the full trucks to the transfer station in Glenview.

The new plan would see six one-person crews handle the recycling routes and drive their own trucks to the transfer station.

The city now pays Groot Industries $4.20 a month per household to collect recycling from a total of 19,208 Evanston households.

It appears the cost of having the city do the same work will work out to about $4.16 a month per household. But that’s subject to a number of assumptions about future salary and benefit costs, workers compensation expenses and other variables.

Despite years of cost cutting efforts, this year the cost of having city crews pickup refuse, Eggleston said, is more than 40 percent higher than the average contractor cost in northern Cook County, once equipment maintenance and workers compensation costs are included in the calculation.

Eggleston has also prepared a backup plan for reducing the cost of refuse pickup if city crews continue to do that work. That plan, incorporating suggestions from Dave Matusek, an equipment operator, would switch crews from working four 10-hour days per week to five 8-hour days, restructure the special pickup operation and close the city’s recycling center. Those measures would cut $290,000 from the current cost of refuse collection.

But Evanston Now’s analysis suggests it would still cost about a $1 more per household per month to have the city crews do the refuse pickup work than the average charge of $7.50 per household per month for a private contractor to do the job.

Because the city has filled several sanitation jobs with temporary workers, only seven full-time permanent employees are assigned to the crews now — which happens to be the number needed to staff the recycling work if it’s brought in house.

Aldermen in the past have been reluctant to contract out the sanitation work because of a desire to protect jobs for city workers.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Something that makes you go, hmmmmmm?
    If I understand this correctly, the city NOW says it can do the recycling four cents less than a private contractor? But the city does not calculate future salary, benefit costs and workers compensation expenses?

    It seems the city keeps coming back with lower numbers. I don’t believe it for a second.

    It’s pretty apparent that the city would save a lot of money to contract out ALL sanitation services – recycling and waste.

    I love the last paragraph in this story. Aldermen care more about union jobs than making fiscally responsible decisions.

    That’s because ALL the aldermen are Democrats and all of the new members were supported by the Democratic party during the last election.

    As we all know, the Democrats are in bed with the unions. That would explain why we have the union president of city employees sitting on the Evanston budget advisory committee.

    Remember, with an $8 million gap in the budget, jobs HAVE TO GO in order to balance it. I wonder if that union president has a desire to protect union jobs?

    It’s something that makes you go, hmmmmmm?

    The city isn’t calculating its possible future cost increases — but neither is it making any allowances for possible future cost increases by private contractors.

    One might also imagine that if private recycling contractors were offered the opportunity to bid on a renewal of the recycling contract and knew that the city had figured out how to do the job itself just as cheaply as in the current private contract, they might try harder to come up with a lower bid.

    I believe it would be wise for the city to seek private bids for both the refuse hauling and recycling contracts but not commit to actually contracting out either one until after they’ve seen the bids.

    But it’s not clear whether the aldermen will be up for that, given the pressure to save jobs.

    — Bill

  2. Were is the pressure to stop taxing us to death?
    Many Evanstonians are struggling to pay the high property taxes, vehicle sticker fees, water bills, garbage and recycling charges, yearly alarm licensing (alarm is needed due to the high level of crime), etc.

    Add to all of those costs paying for child care for students in District 65, given the many, many, many full days off and partial days off for students. Think of it — virtually every month, there is at least one full day off for students and teachers (holidays so they are paid off for staff) PLUS one half day to accommodate teacher training that is never detailed or explained to parents. This patchwork of days off for students results in expensive and time-consuming nightmare for parents. Many parents must use most of their vacation time from work to cover these holidays and teacher training time.

    Back to the City:
    I see repeatedly that there is pressure on the City Council to “save jobs.” Let’s think about this. While no one likes to have someone lose their jobs, the City of Evanston is not a social services agency. It is a municipality and many of its expenses are paid by those who live here and have businesses here.

    The City of Evanston has work to be done. To get that work done, the City employs people. If the City determines that some of the work can be done more cost effectively by a contractor, we need to use the contractor.

    It appears that the City of Evanston has too many employees. I base that conclusion on recent comparisons on this site about other similar municipalities.

    It also appears that garbage hauling and recycling could be contracted out at a lower cost than the City of Evanston is currently paying employees to do the work. I have seen information on these costs so I am skeptical of claims that POOF, by magic, the City can suddenly do tasks at a lower cost.

    Is there anyone on the City Council who can look at financial realities and make tough decisions? Or is the problem that the employee unions are running the show and the City Council must bow to their will?

    I have nothing against unions. But, as usual in Evanston, what makes sense (cutting the number of employees and contracting out some services to reduce costs) cannot possibly happen. Sometimes, I feel like I am Alice in Wonderland.

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