The city's Finance Committee tonight will discuss a plan to modify Palo Alto's street-sweeping program in order to cut costs.
The plan proposes the city contract out some parts of the work as well as cut down on sweeping in non-retail areas from weekly to once every other week during the "non-leaf season," which is typically March to October.
These modifications could potentially eliminate seven full-time staff positions and save the city $413,000, a staff report states.
The savings would be funneled into the city's Refuse Fund Reserves, which supports street sweeping as well as garbage collection and disposal, recycling, household hazardous waste and other services. According to the staff report, the Refuse Fund has operated with a negative-rate stabilization reserve in the last few years.
The street-sweeping program costs approximately $2.2 million of the $30 million total Refuse Budget and accounts for approximately one-half of the full-time staff positions. The overall program is made up of various smaller operations, including the cleaning of bike paths, dead ends, parking lots, sidewalks, etc.
An analysis of the program conducted late last year indicated that contracting out the main street-sweeping operation (which is performed by large sweepers) and reducing the frequency of sweeping during certain months of the year could significantly lower costs. All in-house work currently costs $1,074,000; the proposed program would reduce that to $956,000 and contract out $661,000 worth of work.
The city ran a pilot version of the proposed program earlier this year, reducing the frequency of street sweeping in sections of Midtown, Old Palo Alto, Stanford Research Park and other areas.
The pilot demonstrated that the program works "without adverse impacts to he public of the environment," the staff report reads.
Most cities in the area, including Menlo Park and Mountain View, already sweep residential streets once every two weeks.
The proposed changes would also lessen future rate increases for residential and commercial customers, the staff report reads.
Under the proposed plan, parking lots, bike paths, dead-ends and downtown sidewalks would continue to be swept weekly by city staff; downtown and California Avenue would be swept three times per week through contracts; and all materials management (i.e. hauling leaf litter or debris) would be contracted out. City staff would no longer sweep El Camino Real for Caltrans.
If approved by the City Council, the program could be implemented next August.
City street sweepers, however, are holding a protest Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall to oppose the proposed plan.
"Quality services and public safety are not the business priority of any contractor," Margaret Adkins, programs assistant in the Public Works Department, stated in a press release. "We know the quality of services provided to our community will suffer."