City restarts trash talk

City Manager Ed Wyatt prefaced remarks by City Engineer Frank Frazier and Public Works Director Linda Leyen by stating that he is aware of the “political sensitivity” of changes to sanitation services.

A sanitation study with pictures of aging garbage trucks may be viewed here.

Wyatt’s remarks reopened a debate that ended on March 12, 2007 when the Henderson City Council rejected a proposal for curbside trash pickup from then City Manager Jerry Moss by a vote of 4-3.

Frazier told council members during the workshop session that if the sanitation department is left the way it is, there will be increased costs. He told members that the sanitation program has already had to absorb increased fuel costs.

The city’s aging fleet of garbage trucks averages three miles to the gallon. Current trucks average 7.5 to 8.5 miles to the gallon.

Leyen told members that of the seven trucks the city currently owns, one is a 1987, two are from 1992, and one is from 1994.

The trucks have a recommended lifespan of ten years. According to Leyen, parts for the 1987 truck are no longer available.

A garbage truck costs $125,000.

Leyen stressed that something has to be done to save money.

The Public Works director outlined three options for the council: change nothing, reduce service to once-weekly backyard pickup, or phase in curbside pickup.

Leyen said that changing nothing would cost $1.4 million a year to the city. It would take 26 employees running ten routes and necessitate a commercial truck and a recycling truck.

The current recycling truck is a 1992 in need of repair. A replacement recycling truck would cost $162,000. Recycling nets approximately $2.50 per ton, partly because the material is “co-mingled”; that is, not separated by type.

The second option, that of providing once-weekly backyard service, would cost $900,000. Leyen said that three trucks could be parked, and nine employees could be moved to other jobs. The advantages are that no new trucks would need to be purchased at present and that fuel consumption would be reduced.

In the second option, old trucks would be used as backups.

The third option given by Leyen was to go to curbside pickup in eighteen months, after one year of once-weekly backyard pickup.

Leyen recommended this option to the council.

The department head said that garbage collection is dangerous because of dogs, rats, needles, and unbagged trash. She said that curbside pickup would eliminate those dangers along with liability for the city.

Leyen said that the city’s current fleet could be modified with lifters to accommodate the containers used in curbside pickup.

The cost to finance the containers would be $94,000 a year for five years. The containers are warrantied for ten years.

Council member Mike Inscoe asked if the city had considered outsourcing sanitation.

“And eliminate all the jobs?” member Mary Emma Evans responded.

Wyatt warned the council that once a private provider is used, a city cannot go back to collecting trash itself, since the garbage truck fleet is usually dispensed with.

The manager also noted that $4 of the current sanitation rate goes into non-sanitation funds. $2 is tied to recycling and $2 is tied to code compliance.

Council member Mike Rainey expressed concerned that curbside containers could make narrow city back streets impassable to the garbage trucks. Member Lonnie Davis expressed a need to consider senior citizens and the injured.

Evans reminded the council of the protests made against curbside pickup the last time it was suggested. She said that she would support once-per-week backyard pickup.

Wyatt said that cities make arrangements to pick up trash from the backyard for those who are not able. Inscoe mentioned that since a $2 discount is already given to seniors that they are already identified.

The city manager asked members to review the sanitation study.