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City eyes privatizing trash service

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By David Giuliani

For the first time in recent memory, the Las Vegas City Council heard a pitch for privatizing its solid waste service.

The privatization idea has long been a political hot potato, even though the city has hired a private ambulance service for years.

Last week, representatives of Houston-based Waste Management Inc. touted the efficiencies of a large national corporation.

Marlene Feuer of Waste Management said her company would handle such issues as insurance and operational costs. Often, she said municipal solid waste departments’ finances are thrown off by unbudgeted expenses such as major repairs to trucks.

“If we lose an engine, we have to replace it. That’s part of what we do,” she said.

She said that because Waste Management is a large corporation, it can get better deals for trucks and rollout containers.

The big issue with the council is whether a private solid waste company would keep the current city employees.

Feuer said her company would retain those who meet its standards such as passing drug tests and having commercial driver’s licenses.

She said the city’s salary scale for solid waste employees was close to her company’s. She also said her company offered the usual array of benefits.

Asked about retirement benefits, she said Waste Management offers its employees 401(k) retirement savings plans, which depend on the stock market. That’s unlike what city workers get — the state pension plan, which is considered top grade.

Mayor Alfonso Ortiz said he wanted a proposal on costs for the city if it were to privatize.

“That’s no problem, Mr. Mayor,” Feuer said.

The City Council voted 3-0 to have the city staff look at options for the solid waste department. Councilman David Romero wasn’t at the meeting because of illness.

The city recently enacted a 43 percent increase in trash rates, which will take full effect in February. But council members said they wanted to explore alternatives for saving money, including privatization.