Downtown Trash Contract Back in Hands of Capitol Waste

Citing a much lower cost, and much better tools to hold accountability, the Public Works Department has awarded all five trash collection contracts to Capitol Waste – including the downtown neighborhoods where many troubles existed from 2009 to 2014 when Capitol last held the contract.

Chief of Streets Chris Osgood and Supt. of Waste Reduction Brian Coughlin said this week they had awarded the contracts to Capitol, and that included replacing Sunrise Scavenger in the downtown districts (which includes South End, Back Bay and Fenway/Kenmore) with Capitol.

The contract is valid for five years and would start July 1. Replacing Sunrise has the entire City under just one trash contractor, and Capitol already had the other four contracts previously.

“We received proposals from Sunrise and Capitol and the award went to Capitol for each of the districts, including 1 and 10 – which are the downtown districts,” said Osgood. “They had bid significantly lower than Sunrise and were also judged responsible and responsive…We think Capitol is responsible. They have done work in the rest of the City and actually hold contracts in a majority of the neighborhoods.”

For all five districts, Capitol bid $28 million annually, while Sunrise bid $39 million – both over five years – which was an $11 million difference between the two. In the downtown district, Capitol bid $8.9 million to Sunrise’s $11.1 million – which was a $2.2 million difference. This year, the City is paying $6.9 million for collection – making both bids significantly higher than in the previous contract.

Similarly, Osgood said this year the City is paying $24 million for trash collection, and it was noted that even Capitol’s low bid was about a 16 percent increase over current costs.

He said he is not worried about the fact that Capitol’s bid might be too low to perform.

“Capitol’s bid is still 16 percent higher than what we are currently paying,” he said. “That is still an increase. It’s not as though $28 million is so much lower than what we are paying now to do the job.”

The award to Capitol has riled up many in the downtown neighborhoods, particularly in the South End where meetings on trash collection problems dominated the landscape from 2009 to 2014.

South End Forum Moderator Steve Fox has been outspoken on the issue and his preference is for Sunrise to continue as the downtown contractor. He said he hopes things go better than in the previous time, but he is skeptical.

“I have been incredibly worried that this might happen and voiced my view 
that this was a decision that should have been balanced by actual views 
by neighborhoods on vendor performance and not just lowest bid,” he said. “The bidding process involved no solicitation of performance reviews for 
either vendor during the past five years. Had that been a key part of the 
bid review process, I think the results would have likely been different.”

He said he hopes he is wrong, but he said it is his opinion – and that of the Forum’s membership – that the new award is not good news in the South End.

Osgood and Coughlin said things have changed since the last go-around with Capitol, specifically that Code Enforcement has been removed from the Inspectional Services umbrella and put under Coughlin’s department.

“I think there have been important changes by the City over the last five years,” said Osgood. “One of those changes has expanded the numbers of inspectors on Brian’s team.”

Added Coughlin, “The concerns the neighborhood had from 2009 to 2014 came before expanded code enforcement and the inspections we are currently doing…From 2014 to now, there is a different playing field than in 2009.”

They said Coughlin’s team has one of the highest response rates to 3-1-1 calls and complaints, with 97 percent addressed on time. 

Coughlin said another key difference is that they have Capitol mobilize at 6 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. That will lead to quicker service and contractors being in less of a rush to get to the trash plant and back.

“Residents will see trash go a little earlier than they are seeing now,” he said. “They will be able to get out to Lynn, Saugus or Braintree and back by 9:30 a.m. for their second trip. That’s a lot sooner than 1 p.m. or 2 p.m.”

Coughlin assured they would be able to respond quickly to any problems, particularly in the downtown areas where there are two pickups per week.

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