Public Vs. Private
By: Diana T. Barth
Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino brought selectmen up to date Tuesday on the progress that has been made toward implementing the goals they adopted back in August.
It is a tough economy, and in the interest of finding savings, those goals included looking into whether there would be any financial advantage in privatizing a number of town services, such as trash collection, ambulance service, and the running of the marinas.
Mr. Guerino said this week that, while the town has information on the costs involved in running the ambulance service, offset by the insurance payments and other revenue collected from those who have used the service, it needs to put out a request for proposals to private companies to obtain quotes as to how much they would charge.
He told selectmen that he has drafted the proposal, but found that it involved a number of variables that he felt needed further review, since any meaningful quote had to be for services comparable to those provided by the town department.
Further, there had been discussion raised by Selectman Donald J. Pickard about finding a way to use private ambulance companies in conjunction with, rather than instead of, the town’s firefighters.
A lot of the overtime and other costs associated with providing emergency services involve time used transporting patients to various hospitals. He and other selectmen wanted to see a comparison of the costs involved were the town paramedics to respond to an emergency, stabilize the patient, but have a private ambulance company transport that patient to the hospital.
Such a system might entail the need for one paramedic to ride to the hospital with a patient, Mr. Guerino said.
Since the issues were complex, and time still needed to be put into the question, Mr. Guerino asked selectmen to reaffirm their interest in the proposal and put together an ad hoc committee with the expertise to review a request for quotes.
Chairman John A. Ford Jr., commented that selectmen did not want an in-depth look at privatization, but a cost and benefit analysis. He said he thought that, as had been discovered in past years when the issue had been raised, it would be found to be more cost effective to provide ambulance service in-house.
Any committee that was put together, selectmen heard from audience members, did not have to reinvent the wheel.
Bourne Firefighter Gilbert Taylor said he hoped the committee would compare “apples to apples,” and not bring back cost information about a hybrid way of providing the service that would be meaningless when selectmen needed to see whether the private companies or the in-house services were more affordable.
After considerable discussion, selectmen voted to put together a committee made up of the town’s finance director, the fire chief, a member of the finance committee, and two members of the pubic, preferably people with audit or medical expertise. That ad hoc committee would report back within 120 days of its creation.
Anyone interested in serving on the committee was asked to express their interest to the town administrator.
Next, Mr. Guerino said that a request for proposals for private trash collection had also been prepared.
That document looked at a number of different factors, including the pickup of trash and recycling. He said the request was for a quote for three years, with the option of extending any contract for an additional two years. Receptacles for recycling and other issues were covered, as were variable schedules for the length of time between recycling pick ups.
A cost comparison would be complicated, Mr. Guerino said, by the fact that those employees who now picked up trash also did such things as respond in an emergency for snow plowing, a savings that would be hard to quantify, as well as by the fact that the town had some areas that could not be accessed with a big trash vehicle, but required the use of a smaller truck.
Further, the town needs to figure out how much revenue is generated by selling the recyclables that are collected—revenue that would go to private haulers if the town opted to turn collection over to them.
Request for proposals are non-binding, and this one was ready to go out, but before sending it out, Mr. Guerino said he wanted the board to reaffirm its interest in the information, given the amount of analysis that will need to be done.
The selectmen asked that the request be finalized and sent out.
Mr. Guerino then turned to the question of private management for the marinas. He said most of his time had been spent on the ambulance and trash questions, but that with the help of Department of Natural Resources Director Timothy Mullen, a request for proposals would be completed soon.
Selectman Stephen F. Mealy, who has previously served on the town’s Shore and Harbor Committee, reminded Mr. Guerino that the town had had outside management before, and suggested that he contact that committee and use their expertise.
“They’ve been through this before,” he said.
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