Privatization FAIL

Small-town Oklahoma residents find privatization of services not so shiny, sparkly:

Slezickey says Burrell Inc. reads electric, gas and water meters. The city contracted with that company six years ago, but this Spring, Slezickey says the company downsized and inconsistencies started.

“Shortly after that, they were late getting some of the books to us,” said Slezickey.

We called Burrell to ask what caused the high bills. No one returned our messages.

“My assumption is they were estimated instead of being read,” said Slezickey.

Whoever estimated Smith’s bill says she used 575 units of water in one month. Based on records, she uses that much in a year and a half.

“I allotted $50 to $100 for this bill. I don’t have $813.75 nowhere. Turn it off. I don’t know what else to do,” said Smith.

One of the reasons you don’t want vital public services privatized is because the private sector deals in a naturally fluctuating economy. When the economy is struggling or things happen affecting a private company’s operational budget, they start cutting corners. They’re not going to cut their profit margin, so quality is inevitably going to suffer. And when you’re dealing with services like trash pickup or reading water and gas meters, it’s not as easy as just switching which brand of detergent you buy.

Here in Nashville the company that had provided our trash services, PDQ Disposal, got bought by the regional behemoth Waste Industries, which has been on a buying spree around the Southeast. Since then our service has declined noticeably: for the first time in 12 years our entire neighborhood was overlooked on trash pickup day. After two days of wondering what the heck happened and fielding calls from neighbors I finally had to call them and tell them they’d forgotten a 5-block area.

I also have had a running battle with the guy who empties the dumpster at the church in my neighborhood. After repeatedly violating the noise ordinance by emptying the dumpster at 4, 5 or 6 a.m., I called the superivsor for our area and had to actually show them the city ordinance that says you can’t empty a dumpster before 7 a.m. in residential neighborhoods. They actually didn’t believe me!

But that wasn’t the end of it. Nooo. The guy still came at 6 a.m., and when I talked to him about it he sneered and said, “why do you care? You’re obviously awake at this time!” Now, just to be a dick, he’ll sometimes park his big truck in the church parking lot for 20 minutes or more, engine running and diesel exhaust belching into the air, until the clock hits 7 a.m. Then he’ll empty the dumpster, doing extra banging and clanging. Again, just to be a dick.

Yeah, remind me why I’m supposed to be happy my tax dollars are paying this asshole’s salary.

Anyway, I got a little far afield here. The point is, when these companies contract for city services they agree to a set amount of money upfront. But the world is always changing, and inevitably something is gonna happen, be it a downsizing or getting bought by a competitor or whatever. When that happens someone always suffers and it’s usually us customers.

11 Comments

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11 responses to “Privatization FAIL

  1. democommie

    If the asshole that drives the dumpster grapple is letting his truck run for 15-20 minutes he may well be violating a city or state statute. Sic the EPA or your state environmental quality people (assuming TN hasn’t gutted the agency) on them.

    You say this is a municipal contract? May I take that to mean that the church is getting it’s trash hauled at city expense? I hope that’s not the case.

    • I was thinking a more Earth First type solution. Spike strip anyone?

    • No, the church pays for their dumpster service, it’s just that it’s the same company that has the municipal contract because, as far as I can tell (hey I could be wrong, this ain’t my line of work), there isn’t anyone else doing this anymore. One big fish gobbled up all the little guys, near as I can tell.

  2. Goldni

    Over the weekend, my boyfriend and I visited Hoover Dam on our drive back to LA from our weekend in Nevada. Because of security concerns since 9/11, you’re not allowed to go inside of the dam on the tour anymore. However, the security personnel at Hoover Dam is provided a private security company. Does that make sense to anyone?

    • Just like it made no sense that we hired private contractors to fight our wars…

    • Jim in Memphis

      My wife and I went inside the dam about 3 years ago when we were out there. Maybe it has to do with whatever the current threat level is? Also, not sure how it matters whether or not the guards are hired by the government or a private contractor. I would assume they have to pass the same background checks either way.

      • Well, Edward Snowden was hired by a private contractor and look where that got everyone. He had access to all sorts of sensitive material and he’s basically a nobody college dropout. My whole takeaway from his many leaks was to think, look at the information this person was able to access.

      • Background and security-clearance checks have been contracted out to private entities for =years= now. It’s no wonder that things are coming back to bite them in the ass like they have.

  3. democommie

    Snowden prolly has NPD or some other mental affliction that makes him be an attention whore (think Glennie Blek, Vicki Jackson, Michael Savage and about 99% of the current crop of “conservative” commentators.

    Maybe the security company is Wackenhut, they provide a lot of gummint and energy sector security. It’s all good, ’til they become the Wackenhuttaree.