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City Manager Proposes No-Bid Waste Collection Contract Extension

It's one of the basic city services most resident's rely on, trash and recycling collection. It's not something we think about very much. In fact, it's been five years since we last discussed our trash collection services in East Providence.

At the March 6th City Council meeting, City Manager Chapman proposed a five year extension of the current contract with Seekonk based Mega Transportation Group / MTG Disposal. Chapman and Public Works Director Steve Coutu ran through why they thought the contract should be extended without a bid process. Stating that the contract would be more than $720,000 in savings over the five years. Mainly from a substantial reduction of 5% in the first year of the contract.

Still, the lack of information and no bid process did not sit well with Ward 3 Councilman Joe Botelho. “I really don’t know if this is a good deal or not... There’s nothing to compare it against in terms of what other firms are offering.” Botelho continued “The council really ought to take an abundance of caution approving a 10 million dollar contract”

The contract was originally part of a regionalization pact with Pawtucket and Central Falls. Pawtucket approved a a five year extension last September.

Coutu noted that the contract was a good value stating that in year three we would be paying about what we are paying right now. He also noted that someone was always available to deal with issues. “Service has been really good… the least of my headaches." Chapman also noted that he had doubts that the city would come back with as favorable terms if the city went to bid. 

The issue has also sharply divided members of the public, some saying they "love their trash man" while others have questioned why the contract has not gone to bid. This publication even received emails questioning political donations from the company's executives.

Records do show a history of the Mega family donating to many state and local politicians. However the only East Providence official to receive donations was Bruce Rogers, one of the Mayors at the time that publicly embraced the regionalization proposal that led to Mega/MTG providing services to all three municipalities. Donald Grebian, Mayor of Pawtucket has been a frequent recipient of Mega family contributions as well, and some have noted in their communications the story we broke regarding the link between the City of Pawtucket and City Manager Chapman.

However the contributions to Grebian, while frequent, are not large, nor is there a direct personal link between Grebian and Chapman, it is our understanding that Chapman is engaged by and reports to the Pawtucket City Solicitor for his legal work to that city.

A look at what other municipalities are doing shows that a lot of other cities and towns are hiring Mega, often the low bidder with terms similar to what are being offered to East Providence. Most municipalities that use the company also report positive service as Coutu indicated.

The contract extension, if approved would take effect on November 1st. Ultimately, after little discussion outside of Botelho's comments, it was decided to postpone the matter until the next council meeting where the city's Purchasing Agent and a representative from Mega would be present.