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Haverhill

June 22, 2014

High trash bid brings budget crisis, changes to recycling program

Haverhill councilors skeptical of shortfall, accuse mayor of negotiating ploy

HAVERHILL — A funding crisis in the city’s trash pickup and recycling program has created an $800,000 hole in Mayor James Fiorentini’s spending proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The shortfall was caused by larger-than-expected bids by Haverhill’s trash hauler, Capital Waste, to renew its expiring trash and recycling contract with the city, the mayor said.

Fiorentini told councilors the shortfall means they will get none of the additional spending requests they recently voted for, including more police officers, firefighters and public safety equipment and vehicles. Worse, the mayor said, he is proposing new police spending cuts, new service fees and tapping the city’s reserve cash account to bridge the potential budget gap.

Councilors said they are skeptical of the mayor’s reported shortfall, especially the timing of it.

Fiorentini’s explanation of the situation set off a firestorm of criticism and accusations by councilors at a budget meeting Wednesday night.

“If these high bids came in May 22, why did we hear about them for the first time (June 12), a day after we voted to add things we wanted in the budget?” City Council President John Michitson asked the mayor. “And why were your estimates for the trash contract so low. The number you budgeted for trash is off by almost 50 percent. I’m baffled by what’s going on tonight.”

Fiorentini’s budget includes $1,625,000 for trash pickup next fiscal year. Capital Waste’s bid to do the job is $2,437,600.

“It’s quite a coincidence to get this information right now,” Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien told the mayor.

Fiorentini told councilors he resented their insinuation that he was using the recycling bids as a negotiating ploy.

“I told you about this last week,” the mayor told councilors Wednesday. “I saw that you wanted more spending, but what I told you was there was going to have to be less spending, not more. ...If you want more, tell me where to cut.”

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