The mayor is holding four meetings on the toter system.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Linda Tyer is rolling out the toters.
After the City Council sent her proposal to revamp the way trash is collected in the city back to her office, Tyer is now rolling the program out to the public.
Tyer has completed two of four public meetings during which residents can ask questions, test out the toters, and see for themselves how their use may impact their day-to-day lives.
On Wednesday, Tyer's first meeting was at Morningside Community School. There she outlined her concept of providing every household with a 45-gallon for trash and a 96-gallon toter for recycling. Anything amount of trash over that amount, residents would need to purchase overflow bags.
The program is seen as a way to decrease the amount of trash the city pays to dispose of each year by increasing the recycling rate.
"We've got to look at everything we do in government for efficiencies, savings, and cost containment," Tyer told the 40 or so residents in attendance. "This is one of the most expensive services we provide."
Tyer says, currently, the city spends $3 million per year to dispose of trash. With the program, Pittsfield would save between $89,000 and $225,000 depending on the level of trash reduction. She said the toters would be paid for through a combination of a state grant, unspent bond premiums (money the city borrowed by ended up not needing to spend so it sits in a bank account), and free cash. The upfront cost is $1.4 million and Tyer said it could be repaid within five years, provided the high estimates are achieved, through savings to the annual budget.
"That can be reallocated to other parts of our budget," Tyer said.
But the numbers have been enumerated multiple times in the presentation to the City Council. So Tyer's main focus during these meetings is to show how the change will impact citizens' daily lives and to hear their concerns.
Some of the questions answered in the first session include:
Will it be mandatory?
Yes. It would need to be mandatory in order to have the full impact.
What do you do with the overflow bags?
Put them beside the toter and the driver of the garbage truck will get out and pick it up. Tyer does not expect there to be too many overflow bags because the 45-gallon toters can fit four large kitchen trash bags.
What happens if you put out different bags?
The driver will not pick them up. The homeowner would then be informed of the process and if problems continue, the Health Department could issue citations for violations.
Will the toters be linked to individual households?
Tyer: "The toters will be identified by address so if they are lost or stole, we can return them."
What about people who don't follow the rules and put their trash bags at my address?
The Health Department and Republic Service will handle enforcement. But also, the city could be eligible for a state grant to employ code enforcement officers. Tyer said in no other community has there been a reported increase of illegal dumping.
Who pays for the garbage pals?
The city will purchase them for every resident and collect all of the old trash containers.
Why can't it be a larger toter?
A larger toter would not create the incentive to reduce trash, which is the ultimate goal of the program.
How will elderly people with long driveways handle the toters?
Republic Service currently provides door service for 120 people. Those with a hardship can now, and if the plan passes, apply to have the drivers pick up the bins at the door instead of the bottom of the driveway.
Will the pickup be put to bid?
Tyer is reluctant to put it out to bid especially because it is a new program. She said Republic currently services the city, knows the streets, and has experience with these types of program. She fears a new contractor will make the transition harder.
"I want the most experienced hauler helping us make this change," she said. "I just think there are some risks involved... I'm not sure if the lowest qualified bidder will provide the best service."
What happens if Covanta closes?
The disposal costs would increase, though the mayor does not believe Covanta will close anytime soon. But, those potential increases are even more reason to invest in starting to lower the costs now, Tyer said.
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