Delivery of new 65-gallon trash and recycling carts to city residents as part of a move to automated trash pickup through Waste Management is tentatively set to begin in June, with the new system to begin in July.
“Automatic trash collection has proven successful in many other communities statewide, and brings with it a host of benefits.” said Mayor Allan Fung in a Tuesday press release.
“The changes coming with the new contract will be dramatic and will require a complete change in the mindset of the citizens in order to be successful,” reads a memorandum to the City Council’s Public Works Committee from Director of Public Works Kenneth R. Mason.
The committee on Monday discussed and favorably recommended to the full council an ordinance seeking to amend a portion of the city’s health and safety code as part of the switch. The amended wording reflects and authorizes the role of the carts in waste pickup.
The full council is expected to take up the ordinance at its 7 p.m. meeting on Feb. 24. The mayor urged residents to attend the meeting or contact Director of Constituent Affairs Jeff Barone at 401-780-3123 with any questions.
According to Mason’s memo, three primary goals have been set with the new Waste Management pact – boosting the city’s recycling rate from 23 percent to the state mandated 35 percent, making the city cleaner by utilizing full-closing trash and recycling containers and reducing rodent populations by eliminating their food sources.
“We’re trying to change the mindset of the residents of the city of Cranston to maximize recycling and minimize trash,” Mason told council members.
Fung echoed the concerns over rats, and stressed the need to increase the local recycling rate to reduce tipping fees.
“Both for the environment and for the budget, increasing our recycling diversion rate is critical,” the mayor said. “Issues of public health associated with rodents and regulations for recycling rates have made it so that Cranston must move in a new direction.”
The new contract, awarded to Waste Management in November, will replace the city’s current pact with the company that expires Jun 30. The agreement has a seven-year term with four one-year extension options.
Mason said four companies had attended a mandatory pre-bid session, and two formal proposals were submitted. He said Waste Management’s bid was approximately $5 million less over the seven-year term than the other proposal.
Under the terms, Waste Management will furnish and distribute the trash and recycling carts – one of each, both 65 gallons in size – to all of the city’s 28,000 residential units. Mason said he expects the rollout will move rapidly once it begins, and it will likely move east to west across the city in phases.
“The intent is to roll these things out pretty quick,” he said.
At the conclusion of the seven-year term, the carts become property of the city.
Some council members voiced concern over theft of the carts, but Mason said each will be labeled “City of Cranston” and will have a radio-frequency identification, or RFID, tag correlating to the appropriate address. He also said the carts will be under warrantee through Waste Management for 10 years for standard issues, although there will be a $60 replacement cost under other circumstances.
Both trash and recycling pickup will continue to be done weekly. Mason said there will be a central drop-off point for residents to bring their current recycling bins, while officials are suggesting that current trash containers be used for yard waste or other purposes.
Mason stressed that under the new arrangement; only waste placed in the proper receptacles will be picked up.
The contract requires the company to provide smaller 35-gallon carts for trash and recycling if requested by residents, and planned mailings about the program will ask residents to decide on that option. Residential units will also have the option to receive an additional 65-gallon trash cart at a cost of $150 a year.
Mason said aside from mailings, there are plans for the carts to be displayed visually in City Hall so residents can review available options.
Mason’s memo also states that “disposal of bulky waste and mattresses will change dramatically in the City” under the new contract.
Currently, Waste Management picks up all sizes and kinds of waste placed at curbsides, with mattresses picked up by appointment with no additional cost. Under the new system, anything that does not fit within the carts will be considered bulky waste. Pickup service will be provided at a cost of $18 per bulky item and $25 for each mattress/box spring, with homeowners responsible for the fees.
Mason’s memo states that to avoid the fee, residents may donate such bulky materials, cut them into pieces to fit in the carts or take other steps. It also cites a focus on the “three R’s” of recycling, reusing and re-purposing such items.
“There is the possibility of the waste being thrown into the woods or disposed of in some other illegal fashion, which would end up being paid for by the City,” the memo continues. “Hopefully this kind of action can be minimized. The City should maintain a contingency of approximately $100,000 to pick up the illegally discarded items.”
Mason, in the memo, recommends the hiring of a full-time refuse/recycling coordinator for Cranston, whose role would be to police the new system through the issuance of verbal and written warnings to those not in compliance.
The base fee for the new contract, according to the memo, will be $3,967,665. Including the cost of the coordinator’s position, an estimated fuel surcharge, funding for the pickup of illegally discarded items and a tipping fee adjustment that assumes a 5 percent increase in the recycling rate, the total proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 is $4,165,665. That represents a decrease from the current year’s budget of $4,316,328.
The base fee will increase by approximately 3.3 percent annually over the life of the contract, the memo states, while the fuel surcharge is also subject to annual adjustment.
The memo also cautions that the tipping fee charged by Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation “may increase dramatically due to the expiration of the current contract between cities and towns” with the company at the end of June.
“We’re waiting to hear from them how much they’re going to raise their rates,” said Mason.
Under the new contract, the disposal of TVs, computers, tires, waste oil and metals would continue at the Highway Department’s facility on Phenix Avenue.
Elsewhere on the public works agenda, Councilman Richard Santamaria said he wanted “to get the word out to people” that yard waste pickup has ended for the season.
Mason said the city’s policy has, for some time, been to pick up yard waste between April 1 and Dec. 15. He said this year, enforcement of that timeframe has been stepped up in an effort to control tipping fees.
In terms of the city’s snow removal budget, Mason said this week’s weather has exhausted the last of the roughly $635,000 that was initially allocated. With more winter weather in the forecast, he said crews were preparing to clear the city’s roads.
“We’re getting ready for the next one tomorrow,” he said.
Earlier this month, City Finance Director Bob Strom had said that while the snow budget was running low, he was “not too concerned at this point” because of an existing reserve fund and the ability to transfer money from positive line items.
Strom had also said the subcontractors line item was an area of the snow budget that was particularly overspent, but that doing so is necessary.
“We need to have that working relationship with them,” he said.