In his last year as mayor of Kenosha, John Antaramian is considering one of the most divisive moves in his long tenure. KCE has been made aware that the mayor is taking steps towards privatizing waste pickup and other services in the City. We contacted the mayor’s office today, but Antaramian wasn’t in. He rarely is these past couple of years. Due to a heart attack, declining health, and surgeries, Antaramian is getting ready to pass the reigns to his yet-to-be-determined successor in less than a year. We contacted the mayor on his cell phone and he refused to discuss the topic. The mayor has done a good job of keeping this a secret, even from the City Council. Last night, we emailed all 17 of them. Many of them heard the news first from us.
We spoke to City Administrator John Morrissey, who always makes himself available to us. He confirmed that one Illinois waste company, believed by KCE to be Flood Brothers, one local company, believed by KCE to be Waste Management, and one in Milwaukee, believed by KCE to be GFL, have approached the City of Kenosha to take over some or all of the waste services, including garbage pickup, recycling, the transfer site, and yard waste site on Highway H. Morrissey made it clear, however, that only proposals that save money would be considered. “I think every proposal that people bring forward should be looked at, if there is a cost saving to the citizens we should consider the pros and cons of the proposal,” said Morrissey on Monday to KCE.
Morrissey assured us that these three companies were not solicited, but that they all approached the City on their own accord. The City will be providing these companies information like operational cost and waste. The city must release this information – it is public record. Morrissey also explained that the current waste employees can not be eliminated becuase they are needed for snow plowing and other jobs as well. Morrissey is skeptical that this would be possible.
There are still more questions than answers for the taxpayers, like who will be getting the garbage bill? If the City picks up the tab for a few years, what is stopping them from starting to bill the homeowners directly like in Salem Lakes? If the City begins to bill the homeowners, what will the City do with the huge surplus? Give it back to the taxpayers? Spend it on another trolley? More corporate handouts to Bear Realty to build subsidized housing? The mayor doesn’t want us to know. This idea comes on the heels of the City borrowing millions of dollars to buy a fleet of new garbage trucks.
We contacted labor champions, State Senator Senator Bob Wirch (D) and State Representative Tod Ohnstad (D). Neither wished to give their opinion on the possibility.
We reached out to all 17 Aldermen. Here is what four of them said:
“I would love to save our taxpayers money and pay our city employees competitive wages, but garbage pickup would be one of my last choices of things to cut. Let’s reduce our frivolous development subsidies before we even consider privatizing essential core services. I understand doing our due diligence, but I just hope it’s not eating up any resources,” said Alderman David Mau.
“I don’t know all the information at this time to make a good decision. We just purchased all the new [garbage] trucks,” said Alderman Dominic Ruffalo.
“I will never support privatization. In the long run, it would always come down to reduced services and higher cost for taxpayers,” said Kenosha Alderman Jan Michalski.
“No, I am not in favor of it, and if it comes to committee, I will be voting no,” said Kenosha Alderman Rocco Lamacchia.
Kenosha County Board member Tim Stocker is an active member of the Kenosha County Board and seemed skeptical of the mayors plan saying “This raises a lot of questions. I will be watching this with great interest.”
What’s with all of the Tires In Uptown?
As of the first of the year, 2023, the City of Kenosha began to charge residents $2 per tire to dispose of them. The City tried this a couple of decades ago and tires started to appear in alleyways, roads, ditches, and private property. The City, having learned its lesson, stopped charging, and has not charged for almost 20 years. On December 5, 2022, the City Council voted 14 – 3 to charge residents $2 per tire again, even after having learned the hard way. Voting against the measure were Aldermen Kangas, MacKay, and Kennedy. The Mayor was the sponsor of this change. The City previously had a policy of taking tires for free.
Alderman Kennedy (10) who voted against the measure, spoke briefly with KCE Monday evening. “It didn’t seem worth the effort for the small amount of money it’s bringing in. I hate to say ‘I told you so,’ and I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t look like it’s working.”
I took a drive up and down alleys in uptown and saw countless tires in ditches, on the road, on private property, in alleyways, and yes, even in trees. I was driving, so I could only safely photograph a few of these with my cell phone.
“It comes down to how we want our inner-city to look,” said an uptown resident who saw me photographing tires. “Do we want to look like inner-city Racine or Waukegan, or do we want to look clean? I don’t care about a few damn dollars. This looks like crap.”
As for the privatization of the waste department, there is no current proposal to be considered….yet.