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Municipal workers in Peterborough, Ontario, have mowed down a contracting out proposal that would have cost taxpayers as much as $67,000 more for grass cutting and litter pickup.

The workers, members of CUPE 504, were quick to act when they saw a high-priced bid for the work in late March. They crunched the numbers and showed the city could bring the work back in-house and save taxpayers money, deflating previous estimates that overstated the cost of contracting in.

The local calculated that even if the city bought all the vehicles needed to do the work, instead of leasing some, it was still far cheaper than the bid submitted by private contractor Town and Country. Management’s costing of doing the work was $1,524 per acre – much higher than the local’s highest estimate of $947.89. The bottom line is savings of between $30,000 and $67,000 a year, over a two-year contract.

Council agreed to give municipal workers the job of grass cutting, trimming and litter pickup for 229 acres in various city parks in 2008 and 2009. Council had previously endorsed a three-year contract with the private contractor, then reversed that decision after CUPE made its case.

Town and Country, the only bidder for their work, will do the job for 2007. Their bid, which is costing $95,383 more than was budgeted, will force the city to dip into a reserve fund.

The city has contracted out for the maintenance of 229 acres of fields for the past seven years while public works staff does 148 acres. The city was forced to tender the work after the last contractor pulled out of a three-year deal last December.