After complaining to members of the Mobile City Council last week about low pay and alleged harassment from a supervisor, advocates for public works employees brought up issues of “sabotage” and plans to privatize the department.
Michael Beech, a garbage truck driver and vice president of the public works employees advocacy group, said he had heard of plans to bring in three different contractors to work garbage routes within the city.
The Rev. Cleveland McFarland took it further, accusing Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration of purposefully attempting to limit the number of employees through attrition in order to “sabotage” the department’s budget.
“Once you try to privatize, the price will be low,” he said. “After a while, the city will start to get rid of its equipment and the prices will start to go up.”
For their part, councilors responded to the accusations. Councilwoman Gina Gregory said studies the city has done in the past proved that privatization will cost more in the long run. Councilman C.J. Small said he hadn’t heard anything about privatizing the department, outside of “rumors and gossip” and Councilman Fred Richardson showed his hand by using a colorful Bible-related quote.
“The mayor can’t secretly privatize garbage pickup, he needs the approval of council,” Richardson said. “If Moses stood at that podium with staff in hand, I’d vote ‘no.’”
The mayor’s staff remained mostly quiet when hearing the allegations. In response to continued complaints about harassment, city attorney Ricardo Woods gave out his email address and department phone number, asking those with complaints to call his office so they could be investigated.
Like last week, Beech said the employees wanted a raise similar to what officers of the Mobile Police Department received during budget negotiations last year. Specifically, he asked for a $5,000 raise and a 2 percent raise for every five years of employment.
Councilors again said they’d support a raise if Stimpson put it in the budget. Councilman Levon Manzie also asked for the mayor to meet with the employees over the complaints.
In other business, the council delayed a vote on a new junk car ordinance based on state legislation introduced by Rep. Adline Clarke [D-Mobile].
The new ordinance would allow city officials to ticket inoperable vehicles with or without current registration, Bloomberg Innovation Team Executive Director Jeff Carter told councilors during a pre-conference meeting. After a ticket has been on the vehicle in question for 30 days without action, the city can tow it away once all of the owners have been notified. If nothing is done after 60 days, the city can sell the vehicle at auction.
The council will take up the new ordinance at a public safety committee meeting on Tuesday, May 15 because councilors had remaining questions about the law.