Petersburg Pilot -

Assembly divided on changes to recycling program

 


The assembly was divided on a proposal to transition to an in-house, cart-based recycling program this summer.

The transition comes with a $285,000 price tag, which would cover the one-time cost of purchasing 96-gallon carts and the purchase of another collection truck. Bringing the program in-house would save the borough $66,000 a year in expenses related to the current recycling program, which includes a contract with Ruger’s Trucking for curbside pick up as well as the continual purchase of blue bags.

The ordinance, including the proposal, passed on its first reading 4-3 with assembly members John Havrilek, Jeigh Stanton Gregor and Bob Lynn opposing.

Lynn said he couldn’t support spending nearly $300,000 after hearing a budget presentation by Finance Director Jody Tow that included no Secure Rural Schools monies and projected decreased revenue sharing funds from the state.

“I also think after reading all the comments from people that another year continuing as we were with a contractor would serve us to help get more knowledge out there and to get a better system,” he added.

Stanton Gregor said that he previously supported the changes to the recycling program but after hearing from community members, he no longer does.

“Right now we’ve had this program with these contractors for one year; customer satisfaction is very high as evidenced by feedback I’ve gotten and by the survey we did,” Stanton Gregor said. “I feel pretty strongly at this point that I’d like to at least give it one more year with the current system.”

Of the assenting votes, both Mayor Mark Jensen and assembly member Kurt Wohlhueter said their yes votes were intended to push the ordinance to its second reading so that there would be an opportunity for public input.

Vice Mayor Cindi Lagoudakis was the only clear proponent of the proposal.

“When we look at the costs of buying the new vehicle and switching to the carts, we would recoup those costs in a few years time where the bags and the contracts are ongoing costs,” she said.

The $285,000 in upfront costs would be recouped in four and a half years as the borough would save $66,000 annually not having to pay for contracted pick up services or the blue bags, according to a report by Public Works Director Karl Hagerman.

Also included in the report is a list of pros and cons related to transitioning the program. The cart-based system would eliminate not only the cost of the blue bags but also the hassle related to animals, especially birds, getting into the bags. It would also make it easier for customers to recycle odd-shaped items.

In order to implement the program without added staffing expenses, the hours at the baler would be reduced, a drawback outlined in Hagerman’s report. On weekdays the baler would be open noon to 3 p.m. though Sunday hours would remain the same.

Ruger’s Trucking currently has an $85,200 contract to collect recycling for the borough. A recent survey done by Public Works showed high levels of satisfaction among recycling customers with Ruger’s service.

Ruger’s owner Wes Davis presented his perspective to the assembly during the public comment period. Davis said he’d like to see the blue bag program continue for another one to two years with a focus on increasing the diversion rate or the proportion of total waste that is diverted into the recycling stream.

He added that he has concerns that the borough will be able to perform recycling pick up, including on call pick ups related to cruise ships and holidays, as efficiently as his company does without adding additional staff. He also said the effort to pick up commercial cardboard is a large one, representing about 25 percent of his total workload.

“We accomplish everything pretty efficiently with a $12,000 vehicle. I don’t see how it’s responsible for the city to spend $210,000 on a vehicle that can’t even do all the job, still can’t collect the cardboard,” Davis said.

Hagerman said that his staff would be able to collect the cardboard with one of the trucks in their fleet and that his staff would be able to efficiently collect recycling since it’s on the same garbage route they currently run.

“We are planning to address all of the recycling that’s being done currently,” Hagerman said. “I think we can easily pick up the recycling carts on the routes that we need to pick up…as well as visit the other sites and collect cardboard and other commodities that we currently have Ruger’s picking up.”

A public hearing on the proposal and the second reading of the ordinance will take place at the next assembly meeting on March 2 at noon.

 

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