City considers trash collection alternatives to avoid 2011 fee increase

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LEWISTON — An estimated $491,000 increase in trash collection costs in 2011 could be incentive to find alternative ways to pick up the city’s garbage.

Councilors agreed Tuesday to take bids for three trash collection methods this spring.  One would continue the city’s current curbside collection. A second would institute a single-sort recycling program and a third would see the city adopt an automated collection system.

“We won’t know what anything is going to cost until we have actual bids in front of us,” Councilor John Butler said.

Ian Houseal, special assistant to the city administrator, said the current contract with Casella Solid Waste Subsidiary Pine Tree Waste is scheduled to expire in June 2011.

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Under that arrangement, the city pays $1.65 million a year to collect and dispose of trash. That includes curbside trash and recycling collection, transportation to the Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp. incinerator in Auburn and disposal in the Lewiston landfill.

The city takes in $969,960 in recycling sales and tipping fees, meaning that $726,194 of the trash costs are paid by property taxes.

Houseal estimated the city’s costs would increase by $491,000 when the contract expires. He estimated a single-sort recycling program would be slightly less expensive, an increase of $465,000. An easier-to-use recycling system would mean less trash and less staff time collecting things at the curb, he said.

A fully automated system, with a special truck using a mechanical arm to collect trash bins would cost the city $821,000, he estimated.

“But now we want to open this up and get as many bids as we can on all of these proposals,” Houseal said.  He also raised the possibility of instituting a pay-per-bag collecting system. City trucks would only collect trash left in special city garbage bags under that kind of program.

Councilors were not convinced.

“I know we want to encourage recycling, but isn’t there a way to do it that’s an incentive, not a punishment?” Councilor Larry Poulin said.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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