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REGION

3 mayors unite on curbside pickups

Thrifty move may be first of several

Email|Print| Text size + By Matt Carroll
Globe Staff / February 17, 2008

In an example of how the tight financial climate is forcing communities to look harder for savings, Braintree, Quincy, and Weymouth have quietly formed a regional committee to seek a joint bid on new contracts for curbside collection of solid waste and recycling.

The idea behind the Tri Town Alliance is to save money and help the environment, said the mayors of all three communities. The three - Joseph C. Sullivan of Braintree, Thomas P. Koch of Quincy, and Susan M. Kay of Weymouth - all hoped this could lead to further purchases of a wide range of goods and services.

"We hope to get a better bang for the buck," said Kay.

By coincidence, the three abutting coastal communities had first-time may ors sworn in last month, which helped because all were all willing to take a fresh look at problems, the mayors said. The three communities combined have a population of about 180,000, which gives them some extra negotiating leverage, they felt.

"Given today's economic climate, there is a requirement that we think beyond our separate communities and more regionally," said Sullivan. "Our hope is that we can put together something that . . . will generate savings for each of our communities, while improving the environment."

While this is a first step, the communities are already looking at using their increased clout to gain more savings in other areas as well, on items ranging from hazardous waste disposal to purchases of heavy equipment.

"It's kind of neat," said Koch. "It will help all three of us lower costs."

Communities have been pooling their resources for years to purchase goods, such as automobiles and office supplies, said Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a nonprofit that works on regional issues.

But jointly purchasing services, such as the three communities plan, is much more complicated and rare, although he expects to see more of it.

"There's nothing like a fiscal crisis to focus the mind," Draisen said. "It is to their credit they said, 'We can save a buck and improve services.' "

The communities want to get bids on a seven-year contract, with the possibility of three one-year extensions, said Rosemary T. Nolan, the consultant who is working with them.

The waste contracts for all three expire in June. The target date for pulling together the bid proposals is March 3, with bids due on March 24, said Nolan. She expects four to six bidders.

The bids will include only collection, not disposal, which will be dealt with later, she said. An evaluation committee made up of representatives from each community will pick the winning bid.

Once a bid is awarded, each town would have a separate contract, allowing them to retain some autonomy and get separate billing.

Collecting and disposing of solid waste is a big-ticket item. Quincy spends about $6.5 to $7 million annually; Weymouth, $4.7 million; and Braintree, $2.6 million, said Nolan. The solid waste amounts to about 36,000 tons in Quincy, 22,000 tons in Weymouth, and 16,000 tons in Braintree.

Weymouth and Braintree currently have contracts with Waste Management, while Quincy hires Allied Waste. Both companies are expected to bid on the larger contract.

"We have three new mayors," said Nolan. "It's a perfect storm to create that environment that has them willing to step up to the plate and try something different."

Matt Carroll can be reached at mcarroll@globe.com.

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