Pittsfield Council Advances Toter Contract to Final Vote

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council has taken a move toward toters, preliminarily approving a five-year contract with Casella Waste Management.

After hours of deliberation, councilors on Monday gave the initial OK for an agreement that uses automated collection instead of unlimited trash pickup.  A final vote will be taken next week.

"I think people are nervous of change, people don't like change, toters are a scary thing — carts as you call them. There's hills everywhere, there's one-way streets everywhere, there's snow everywhere. It gets figured out in other places. There will be hiccups, there will be problems," Councilor at Large Earl Persip III said, adding that he is hopeful about Casella providing the service because they have been "a great team member."

"I am encouraged that you are actually rolling out our toter program if it passes."

The city currently spends about $5.2 million on trash per year and the new contract would trim the budget by about $600,000 to $4.6 million.

Pittsfield's nearly 17,400 households produce about 1,800 pounds of trash per household annually, collectively generating close to 20 tons as a community.  The proposal aims to reduce each household's waste to 1,370 pounds annually.

Casella representatives Stephen Haeder and Kilian Flynn answered queries ranging from customer service and pickup times to a $120 yearly sticker that allows residents to access the Hubbard Avenue transfer station and have free recycling and yard waste.

"Every transfer station that I've run or every transfer station that has a drop-off, throughout Berkshire County and throughout the area, has paid a sticker and it fluctuates anywhere from $85 to $150," Flynn said when told the $120 price tag was high.

He said he has been involved with the city contract since 1993 and that they want to make sure it's affordable while Casella is successful in providing it and not operating at a loss.

The biggest change is the use of 48-gallon toters for trash and recycling, provided to residents at no cost. The size of the toters has been under scrutiny, with some thinking they are too small and others too large.

Ward 4 Councilor James Conant unsuccessfully motioned to increase recycling containers to 64-gallon toters, reporting that likely 90 percent of the ward recycles. He said on paper sees cardboard piled inside of boxes on recycling weeks.

He also noted that many people buy online, which results in box recycling, and that the collection is bi-weekly, as it rotates between bottles and cans and paper.

"There's a lot of cardboard generated, paper generated, and my concern is that the 48-gallon toter is not large enough for recycling," he said.

Though councilors supported the effort, they felt it was somewhat over-ambitious.  It failed with Conant, Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren, and Ward 6 Councilor Dina Lampiasi voting in favor. Ward 3 Councilor Matthew Wrinn was absent.

"I think as you go back out there, many of the seniors are going to be saying, 'I have no place to put a 64-gallon toter,'" Mayor Peter Marchetti said, adding that residents can request a second recycling toter at no cost.

He reported hearing the opposite request of 64 gallons for trash and 48 for recycling.

"That tells me that we're not buying into what we're trying to do here in getting folks to recycle so I prefer to stay with 48, 48 and allowing a second toter of recyclables," Marchetti said. "But this part of the process is on you guys. You are hearing from the voters just as much. This isn't a done deal, this isn't a one-man show, and we attempted to do this communitywide and get as many voices heard as we could."

Persip "kind of" agreed, explaining that he recycles a lot, but prefers to have two 48-gallon toters to separate plastics and paper. Councilor at Large Kathy Amuso agreed, reporting that constituents have expressed a want for two 48-gallon recycling toters.

"My own thoughts on it are I like the idea of being able to request a second 48 and going up to 96 rather than starting with 64," President Pete White said.

Councilor at Large Alisa Costa was "torn," given that the city has a recycling rate of only 9 percent.

"I love the idea of making it visually that recycling is more important and so making it bigger but we have some community challenges when I think about small households or more densely populated areas that don't have a garage or someplace to store them," she said.

"Which is I think what we heard at the community meeting."

Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales has found that 65-gallon recycling toters are preferred when studying other Massachusetts communities.

"There are 120 communities that mandate a specific size toter and from there, similar size to Pittsfield, most of them have a 65-gallon taller for recycling," he reported.

Former councilor Karen Kalinowsky said 48 gallons is too small for trash, reporting that there are "tons of garbage" at the curb on pickup day and even the 64-gallon toter would lessen the amount taken in.

Councilors also asked that representatives look into several contractual items before the final approval, including yard waste access for local residents, a reduced sticker rate for seniors, and Christmas tree pickup.

Tags: recycling,   trash,   

If you would like to contribute information on this article, contact us at info@iberkshires.com.

Safety Solutions Proposed for Berkshire Mall Intersection

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — A speed bump and traffic mirror have been proposed at the reportedly problematic intersection of Old State Road and the Berkshire Mall entrance.
Last week, abutters approached the Select Board with concerns about drivers ignoring stop signs and speeding through the area. Target owns its building and is the lone business left on the property.   
"When you turn into Old State Road, our driveways are right there," Judy Bennett said. "Nobody stops, nobody slows down to come around that corner. They go faster and that's where someone is going to get hurt."
Carl Bennett added, "We are taking our lives into our own hands when we pull out during the day."
The Old State Road bridge connects the mall and Old State Road to Route 8. Abutter Pauline Hunt would like to see it closed entirely, making the Connector Road the access point from Route 8.
"That entrance isn't necessary," she said.
"It's chaos. There's an entrance over by the bike path that would serve everybody, there would be no problem, and there are lights at the end of it, it's a dream to get into there. I don't see the reason that chaos is there."
View Full Story

More Pittsfield Stories