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Pittsfield Briefs: Trash Hauling Contract Extended, Parking Meters Moving
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
02:36PM / Thursday, May 24, 2018
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The mayor has signed a five-year agreement with Republic Services, circumventing the City Council's wishes to have the contract go to bid.
 
The new contract had already been basically agreed to before the City Council urged the mayor to put the contract to bid. Nonetheless, city councilors were surprised to learn on Tuesday that the agreement had been signed after advocating for the contract to be publicly bid. 
 
"I wish we had really known some of this when we were having discussions with the trash options," said Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell.
 
According to Mayor Linda Tyer, when the toter proposal was first released, Republic Services agreed to a one-year extension to the 2015 contract without raising the price. Tyer said the cost would have gone up about $127,000.
 
However, Republic Services agreeing to forego those funds for this current year comes with a promise that the administration would sign a five-year contract when that one expires.
 
Director of Public Services David Turocy said there is really only one major change in the new contract, which starts in July. That would be instead of having a set percentage increase each year written into the agreement, the increase would be based on a specific consumer price index for trash collection set by the federal government. 
 
"The advantage is you know the price is going up with a standard number," Turocy said. 
 
However, Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers questioned specifically why that would be a benefit. She said there has been no history kept to compare whether the previous set percentages was more or less than what the CPI increases have been.
 
"We don't have any evidence that it is saving us money. And we don't know if the index is more or less than what the vendor is charging us," Rivers said. 
 
While Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo said there had been no chance for the city to compare the contract price to what other haulers would offer for the service.
 
"I think this is really important," Mazzeo said. "We are hearing this a lot from people and we don't have anything to go by because we don't have a comparison to another company."
 
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell said by bidding it, there is a chance another hauler could offer even better service at a lower price.
 
City Solicitor Richard Dohoney said there is a provision in the contract that could allow the city an out from the five-year contract. But, that would cost the city the $127,794 that Republic agreed to forego.
 
Signing such a contract is an administrative function in city government. It is one of few service contracts an administration can do unilaterally. Tyer has repeatedly pushed back against the bidding process saying that would require the city to take the lowest bid regardless of the level of service it could provide. She has said Republic Services has been doing the work well for years and knows the streets, residents, and routes.
 
But administrators didn't have specifics on the former contracts to discuss with the City Council. The council ultimately agreed to table the discussion by the 6-5 vote to get more information before the current contract expires.
 
In other business, the council pressed the administration to move underperforming parking kiosks. There are some kiosks in the city that are not taking in very much revenue because the demand for parking isn't there. Some city councilors are asking for those to be moved to other locations where there is more demand.
 
"The longer we wait the more revenue we lose," Connell said. 
 
Finance Director Matthew Kerwood said there are ongoing discussions with relocating some of the kiosks as well as a number of other possible changes to the program. But the city wants to make sure it is on the same page with organizations like Downtown Pittsfield Inc. before making any changes.
 
"Relocation of kiosks is on the table for discussion but no decision has been made to where to relocate them to at the moment," Kerwood said. "We want to make sure the work we do going forward with parking involves those constituents."
 
The council continued to press Kerwood about moving some of the kiosks. And Kerwood repeatedly said he agrees that underperforming ones should be moved. But, the city just isn't at the point where everybody agrees where those kiosks should be located nor what other changes should be made to the parking system.
 
But one thing that isn't happening with the plan is expansion. Tyer said while the original plan did call for more parking meters, she is not looking to expand into those other areas yet.
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