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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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Letter: Berkshire State Delegation Needed to Pass Ban on Puppy Mills

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

The public may be aware that I spear-headed local legislation in Pittsfield and Lenox banning the sale of puppies from puppy mills at pet stores. Berkshire Voters for Animals and the Massachusetts Humane Society were strong advocates and helped immensely.

I have received an email from Berkshire Voters for Animals stating, "There is still one of our bills in its original committee that needs to be released by June 14th or it will not have a chance to be passed this session. Time is running out for Massachusetts lawmakers to advance legislation that will prevent commercial dog breeders (puppy mills) from trucking cruelly bred puppies into pet shops. New York, Maryland and California have successfully passed similar laws. Massachusetts should be next!"

The appeal was that "We need you to contact your rep to ask them to contact the House Chair of the Environment Committee to release the bill."

It is my hope that the bill makes it out of committee and not die there, as too many good pieces of proposed legislation often does. I cannot stress how popular these initiatives were. In Pittsfield, I have had ordinances pass that took literally as much as one-half a decade to get passed. No so with this. Dozens upon dozens showed up in support for the ordinance. The Pittsfield City Council passed it immediately, with no debate.

Lenox has an open town meeting where any town resident can show up and vote, and of the dozens upon dozens of people that attended (it may have been over 100, but I am not a good judge of audience size), not a single one voted against the legislation when put to a final vote. In fact, that vote was almost instantaneous.

According to the letter, Sen. Paul Mark and he has spoken with the Senate chair. I respectfully request Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Rep. John Barrett, and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, excellent legislators of the Berkshire Delegation of whom I am fond of, to help pass S.550/H. 826/S. 549, "An Act banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in pet shops" before the 2024 legislative session ends. This salutary law is enjoys widespread and practically unanimous support from the public.

Rinaldo Del Gallo
Pittsfield, Mass.




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