Pittsfield Public Works Panel Endorses $5 Bulky Waste Sticker Increase
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Public Works and Utilities Subcommittee on Thursday unanimously voted in support of a $5 bulky waste sticker fee increase that will raise the price to $15 to $20 per sticker/per item.
"There is definitely a need," Commissioner of Public Utilities Ricardo Morales said. "I think if the council decides to increase this. I'm sure that there'll be some impacts depending on how much that increases, I don't know what those impacts will be."
Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio's original petition suggested a $10 increase to make the stickers cost $25, but the committee unanimously voted on an amendment to decrease that by $5.
The bulky waste sticker fee has remained the same since its implementation around 16 years ago, Maffuccio explained, and was created to provide convenience for residents and to combat the large disposables ending up in city parks or other public areas.
"This was put in place for convenience for homeowners so they would not have to go out and get a private contractor to take it away in the back of their trucks to take it down to Community Eco Power (CEP) and pay the price," Maffuccio said.
"This was a convenience sticker, that's how the program started, that's what it is today, a convenience to remove of your bulky waste."
Morales outlined the ways that the city benefits from this flat rate. For example, CEP charges $40 for the removal of a mattress, while residents can currently pay $15 for the removal of any bulky waste item. He said there is some give and take, for instance, sofa removal from CEP only costs $10.
In 2020, the city sold 2,199 stickers, raking in a monthly average of $2,700. Annually, this amounts to about $30,000.
Morales noted that the city has to pay for the stickers, which was not calculated in that figure.
Ward 6 Councilor Dina Guiel Lampiasi did not support the original proposal for a $10 raise.
"I don't feel comfortable increasing the cost of the tickets right now are the stickers while we're looking down the barrel of more hardship for our residents," she said. "Getting rid of bulky waste is something that is going to affect every household that's looking to move, people who are selling their homes, people who are moving in with one another because they've lost their apartments, and if we increase the hardship anymore at this time I feel like we're at higher risk of finding these items in parks and in yards and places we don't want them."
In response, Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell claimed that it would cost residents "much more" to dispose of these items through a private hauler. He reported that the price to rent a single pickup roll-off is around $120.
"The last time I requested a revenue amount. I think it was something like $7,000 a year," he said. "Which is nothing, but the intent is to help keep the city clean."
Lampiasi later clarified her previous comments, saying the petition "came from a good place and the city needs to get a handle on trash collection," but her issue is considering where residents are now with financial hardship and what is coming down the road, especially for more vulnerable neighborhoods.
"The piles that we're seeing, large waste that needs to go out, those households are already not able to afford a truck to come out," she said. "So, for me calling this a convenience sticker at this time is kind of subjective, because it's only convenient if you're operating under the assumption that people are doing everything exactly the way we would like them to and getting a truck when they have a lot of waste. And also, sometimes it's just three items and when it's just three items, the difference between $45 and $75. For a person coming out of a single apartment, that can be a big difference if they're strapped for cash."
While being in support of the raise, Connell raised concerns about the stickers being difficult to adhere to softer items such as sofas. He claimed that oftentimes, stickers are being stolen.
"We have to come up with a different program, or a different way of attaching them to certain items," he said. "These are self-sticking, they peel off and you apply them but if you apply them to a couch, to a chair, to a mattress, they can be easily peeled off. In the past, I've had to actually take a drill and drill screws through this, and it still does not stop the people that will, and I know you may think this is strange, but they do steal these stickers."
Morales confirmed that the city does get complaints about stickers being difficult to adhere to certain items, but without discrediting Connell's comments said there haven't been many complaints about theft.
The subcommittee also voted to recommend to the City Council that an request for proposals, or bidding opportunity, be made for solid waste collection in the city of Pittsfield This would allow for other companies to bid on being the city's trash collector, bidding on the cost they would be charging for the service based on the amount of trash residents put out.
The petition was brought forth by Maffuccio, but Connell has reportedly supported this motion for many years.
"This has been a real sticking point for me regarding this administration," he said. "They don't want to go out the bid. They were always content with staying with who we are without actually exploring other opportunities, which may be a cost savings to the city and to the residents. So please, those of you that are going to be in the council next year, please, I hope you'll continue to push us through when the contract extension is up."