City council talks trash

Working from a prepared report, Assistant City Manager Frank Frazier and Director of Public Works Linda Leyen reported to the Henderson City Council on research done regarding the privatization of sanitation collection in the city.

The report was made during the council’s monthly work session this past Monday.

According to Frazier, there has been one bidder for providing the services, Waste Industries, which has a local office in Henderson. Pricing was examined for three levels of service: backdoor pick up, curbside pick up with 96 gallon containers, and curbside pick up with 48 gallon containers. Backdoor service would not be contracted out, but rather continued by the city.

Leyen told members that the major drawbacks of continuing backdoor service for sanitation (and curbside recycling) is that the city will have to replace trucks. It will also have to restore staffing levels, as the number of personnel whose primary responsibility was sanitation was “cut too short” when the city went to once-per-week collection.

On the other hand, the public works director said that curbside is less expensive, involves no purchase of trucks, has larger recycling containers, and no disruption in personnel.

Leyen noted that there have been 33 “reportable” accidents in the sanitation department. She said that curbside service would reduce the number of workman’s compensation claims.

96 gallon rolling trash container
A 96 gallon rolling trash container

The curbside service also comes with a 65 gallon recycling container. The current recycling container is an eighteen gallon model.

Recycling bins
Top: The current 18 gallon recycling bin
Bottom: The proposed 65 gallon rolling recycling bin

Frazier told members that they are recommending curbside service. He noted that the city would be subject to future rate increases according to a rise in the consumer price index as well as fuel increases. He said that some of the fuel issues could be mitigated by the city supplying fuel to the vendors.

Backdoor service will still be available for those with verifiable infirmities for an extra $5 per month. Additional rollout containers will also be available for another $5 per month. Frazier speculated that when recycling takes hold, waste will be reduced in the 95 gallon solid waste container. He stated later on in the discussion that some municipalities had flip-flopped recycling and solid waste containers because of the volume of recycling taking place.

The contracted service would take between 90 and 120 days to implement.

Member Mary Emma Evans expressed concern for employees that might be displaced during the transition. Leyen told her that seven full-time employees will be affected, but not supervisors. Griffin also told her that the city will still be collecting yard waste and furniture, and that a supervisor would still be necessary to manage those collections along with monitoring the operation of the private contractor.

Waste Industries will offer positions to three people. The remaining four will have to be placed within the city.

Member Mike Rainey asked what the justification was for charging an extra $5 for impaired persons to get backyard pickup. Frazier responded that without the additional cost, more would claim a need for the service.

Rainey asked what would be done with containers on narrow Henderson streets. Frazier said that he was “positive” that Waste Industries has “looked into that”.

Council member Mike Inscoe asked to see a projected rate per household, which was not immediately available.

Under the plan, sanitation rates would remain at $25, at least for the present. Payment would still be made via residents’ water bills, and the city would in turn make payment to Waste Industries.

Member Garry Daeke remarked that he would like to see cost containment beyond an initial three-year contract. He also said that he would like to see savings in the starting rates. He said that the proposed contract would be a “tougher sell to people in tough times”.