Automated garbage collection may soon be a reality in Zephyrhills.
The city contracted with Kessler Consulting Inc. to perform an operational waste assessment and rate study for the city’s Sanitation Division.
Don Ross, director of operations for Kessler, presented the findings to the Zephyrhills City Council on Oct. 10.
Ross suggested the city — at some point — should consider moving toward automated trash pickup, which involves equipping city waste trucks with an automated arm to pick up and dump the contents of waste containers into the truck.
Cost estimates range from $15,000 to $20,000 for retrofitting two of the city’s existing trucks with automated rear load cart tippers. Additional side load and front load cart tippers may also be purchased.
The trash barrels, or standardized solid waste carts, would likely be provided to city residents, costing the city about $50 to $55 apiece.
Public works director Shane Leblanc said the city plans on providing 95-gallon solid waste carts and 64-gallon recycling carts to residents in the next fiscal year, once the city adopts a “hybrid” or “semi-automated” waste disposal approach.
“Our intent is to outfit some of our existing trucks to pick up the carts,” LeBlanc said. “We’ll have a mechanism on the back of the truck called a cart tipper, where the collection workers wheel the cart out, hook it up to the cart tipper and the cart tipper does all the manual work.”
If approved, city manager Steve Spina said semi-automated waste disposal would be phased in throughout the city.
“Some of the subdivisions would probably start with (automation) and then we could move into other areas,” Spina said.
During the presentation, Ross said automated collection provides several benefits, including a decreased risk of injury for sanitation workers.
“It improves safety, reduces employee injuries, improves collection efficiencies and preserves an aging workforce,” Ross said.
The U.S. Department of Labor ranks the solid waste industry as the “fifth-most dangerous occupation,” trailing only loggers, fisherman, pilots and roofers.
Last year, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) reported 98 fatalities directly related to municipal solid waste collection, processing and disposal.
“This is a very, very dangerous industry,” said Ross, addressing the council.
Additionally, a transition to automated waste collection could result in major savings for the city.
The city’s annual operational cost for manual garbage collection is nearly $406,000. A cost analysis by the consulting company found the city could save nearly $88,000 per year shifting to automated collection, mostly by eliminating sanitation positions.
“The biggest savings is payroll,” said Ross.
Council Vice President Alan Knight said he’d first want a guarantee that there wouldn’t be any job losses among city employees, before a motion is made.
“I don’t want anybody to lose their jobs,” Knight said.
LeBlanc reassured the council that there wouldn’t be any job losses related to a transition to automated waste collection.
“We have no intent of anybody losing their jobs,” LeBlanc said, adding “we have all kinds of stuff for them to do out there.”
Elsewhere, Kessler Consulting’s operational waste assessment found the city’s sanitation division is a “well-run, cohesive operation.”
Moreover, the assessment found the sanitation division to have “high employee morale” and all equipment to be in “good working order.”
However, the consulting company suggested the city should perform a route and billing audit; focus more on route optimization and planning; and cross train drivers.
Kessler Consulting also recommended no additional rate increases for waste disposal service.
The city’s residential rate— including Pasco County’s disposal assessment— is $16.33 per household per month while commercial monthly rates (per cubic yard) are $6.49.
In other business, the city council unanimously approved the contract for Matthew E. Maggard to become the city attorney for the City of Zephyrhills. The contract requires the city to pay a minimum fee of $700 per month as a retainer. Attorney services are rendered at $125 per hour, and staff services are $50 per hour. Maggard, 31, is an attorney with the law firm of Hersch & Associates, P.A., in Dade City. He’s been serving the city in an interim role since Joseph A. Poblick stepped down from the position in July to serve on the Pasco County Court.
Published Oct. 19, 2016