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Trash collection system is win-win, officials say

April 14, 2009
By Jenny Lancour

ESCANABA - Escanaba's automated trash collection system is costing less than projected and extending the life of the landfill, officials said at council's budget work session Monday.

"Overall, the automated garbage system is working quite well," said Public Works Superintendent/City Engineer Bill Farrell. "I think it's been the smartest and easiest thing we did."

What could make it more efficient is to have a third truck to serve as a backup when a vehicle needs to be serviced, he said.Farrell requested a $182,000 automated garbage truck in the public works

budget being reviewed by city council.

Prior to the new automated system starting in October 2007, the city used a manual trash collection system consisting of a fleet of four trucks, including a backup.

Though no major problems have occurred with the automated trucks besides regular maintenance, the diesel engines are the first of their kind since the emissions standards were changed, Farrell said.

A manual garbage truck has been used to pick up trash when an automated truck requires service, he said. The two newer trucks, usually serviced during off hours, have a life expectancy of seven years, he added.

According to City Controller Mike Dewar, "The actual costs are running less than expected for the first years of the trucks."

In 2006-07, the projected annual cost of the automated system was $545,402, said Dewar. This includes labor, equipment and landfill costs. Projected 2009-10 costs are $535,248, he said.

The automated system has saved the city on landfill costs, added City Manager Jim O'Toole. "Recyclables have significantly increased as a result of automated garbage," he said. Also in the budget, Farrell discussed the major and local street funds, including a request for $600,000 for road repairs. Last year the budget included $390,000 for road maintenance.

Much of Escanaba's roads are in need of repair, so much that council considered increasing the city's millage a few months ago. Though streets continue to be a budget priority, O'Toole said officials decided against the tax hike for the roads.

Farrell said he has been seeking other funding sources for Stephenson Avenue, in need of major repairs estimated at $1.7 million. He is pursuing two grants totalling about $600,000 and a $1 million in stimulus monies from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Sidewalks, crosswalks and alley improvements are also included in the proposed budget.



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