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Mayor Peter Marchetti, left, and Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales explain the proposed toter system at the Froio Senior Center on Monday in this PCTV screenshot. The next community meeting is May 21 at 7 p.m. at Herberg Middle School.

Pittsfield Officials: Unlimited Trash Not Sustainable, Toters Offer Cost-Savings

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Unlimited trash pickup is not sustainable and will lead to higher taxes, city officials say.

Mayor Peter Marchetti began public outreach on Monday on the proposed five-year contract with Casella Waste Management for solid waste and recyclables. Older residents packed into the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center for the first of three community meetings.

On the table is a move to automated pickup utilizing 48-gallon toters, which would be at no cost to residents unless they require additional toters and would save the city $80,000 per year.

The goal is to execute a contract by July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

"Trash collection is not free. You're already paying for it as part of your taxes that you pay. In this administration, in this proposal there is no 'I'm looking to create a trash tax,''' Marchetti said, explaining that trash pickup for fiscal year 2025 is around $5.1 million and has doubled since he first served on the council in 2002.

"So we need to find a way to stem the cost of trash."

Some of the seniors praised the new plan while others had concerns, asking questions like "What is going to happen to the trash cans we have now?" "What if I live in rural Pittsfield and have a long driveway?" and "What happens if my toter is stolen?"

"I've lived in a lot of other places and know this is a big innovation that is taking place over the last 20,30 years," one resident said. "It's worked in most places. It's much better than throwing bags of garbage on the side of the road."

Marchetti said he was "strongly advised" toward the toter system and that the draft contract is still up for conversation.

"I know one of the questions that we'll hear is 'Why can't we choose the size of toter we want?' It's automated so that truck is calibrated to pick up to a certain size container and so if you have a 32-gallon container and it says to pick up a 64-gallon container, your container could potentially end up in the back of the truck because the machine isn't happening," he said.

"And I think that the haulers are making this decision because they don't need to put multiple people on a truck. It's one person on a truck. They don't have to worry about people really getting hurt lifting up the 50- or 60-pound trash containers and throwing them into the back so this is the way that the industry is working."

Whether it is this year or three years from now, he said, automation will be a thing unless the city wants to discontinue trash services and have all residents hire private haulers. Additionally, if the city continues to allow trash costs to skyrocket, he said taxes will increase.

In 2021, the City Council kicked a pay-as-you-throw proposal to the curb.

Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales explained that the city's nearly 17,400 households produce about 1,800 pounds of trash per household annually, collectively generating close to 20 tons as a community. Of that trash, only ten percent of it is recycled.

He emphasized that the more the city throws away, the more it will cost.

"We need to do something about this," he said.

The proposal aims to reduce each household's waste to 1,370 pounds annually.

Every household would receive two 48-gallon containers at no cost, one for trash and one for recycling.  Apartment buildings up to four units will receive a set of toters per unit and those who would like additional trash toters can pay about $40 quarterly.

Every container is labeled with the resident's address, making them returnable if they are misplaced.  The toters stand 38 inches tall, 24 inches wide, and 29 inches deep.

"We're not mandating a 32-gallon toter, we're not mandating a 65-gallon toter," Morales said. "We're meeting you in the middle with someone that wants more with someone that wants less."

The dual-stream recycling schedule would remain the same, alternating weekly between cans/plastics and paper. The city is negotiating with Casella to have yard waste, mattress, and electronic drop-off recycling at the Hubbard Avenue facility as well as regular trash.

It was pointed out that the city offers and will continue to offer backyard collection for those who need assistance with trash and forms were provided at the meeting. With this, Casella retrieves the bin from the person's yard and brings it to the curb.

Marchetti said he hears concerns about illegal dumping in city parks and asked why if the city has unlimited pickup. He feels that illegal dumping is not a talking point in the conversation because it happens with the current system.

"We already have that problem, right? You can get to put anything you want to curbside and we have to go clean our parks," he said.

A community meeting was held on May 9; the next is Tuesday, May 21, at 7 p.m. at Herberg Middle School. The council will debate the contract in early June.

"We're not going to be able to come up with a solution for all 17,400 houses but we want to hear the problems, we want to hear the other concerns. We want to be able to try to find a solution," Marchetti said.

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Lanesborough Has Hot, Quiet Election Day

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Voting was slow but steady at Lanesborough Town Hall.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The town had a steady and sweltering election day that saw Deborah Maynard elected to the Select Board. 
Maynard outpolled Joseph Trybus 181-87 to fill the seat left vacant by longtime board member John Goerlach.
About halfway through polling hours, about 150 people had turned out in the 90-degree weather to cast votes for the Select Board, Finance Committee, Planning Board, library trustee, and town moderator. In total, about 400 votes were cast out of the 2,515 registered voters, or about 16 percent.
"It's been kind of slow but steady," poll worker Sheila Parks said. "No exciting news, which is good."
Town Clerk Ruth Knysh guessed that many would vote after work. Polls opened at noon at Town Hall and closed at 8 p.m.
"It's going great. It's been steady since we opened the doors at noontime. No issues at all," she said. "So we're hoping for smooth sailing until eight o'clock tonight."
Earlier in the day, there was road construction in front of the town offices that could have been a deterrent, she observed.
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