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Automated refuse collection considered by Perrysburg


George Luce, right, western Ohio sales manager for Best Equipment Co., describes last week what driver Joe Favorite, left, is about to demonstrate in the automated side-loading refuse truck for the Health, Sanitation, and Public Utilities committee of Perrysburg City Council.

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Members of Perrysburg's Health, Sanitation, and Public Utilities committee recently watched a live demonstration in the kind of automated refuse collection that they are asking the full council to consider and approve for the city.

Best Equipment Co., the recommended firm from whom the city would purchase trucks and bins, rolled up to the Municipal Building last week in a Labrie Automizer and a mobile repair truck.

"Refuse and recycle is one of those things that really affects the public in a daily basis," said Service Director Jon Eckel in his pitch to the committee, which gave it a 3-0 approval.

The proposal calls for buying four, previously leased automated side-arm loading vehicles for about $150,000 to $175,000 each, as well as two 96-gallon Toter bins for each of the city's 6,775 customers.

Joe Favorite, a Best Equipment trainer, climbed into the truck cab with the driver seat on the right side and maneuvered the arm to pick up the Toter from several different spots and orientations on the curb in a matter of moments.

"That's going to be their office," said George Luce, Best sales manager for western Ohio, during the demonstration.

Mr. Luce said the drivers would make a game out of how few times they had to get out of the truck; trimming the number of times in and out of the truck can significantly reduce the risk of injury and increase productivity.

Drivers and handlers on traditional refuse vehicles have significant wear on their bodies just getting in and out of the cab, as well as lifting heavy cans, throwing bags, and stepping off or stumbling over curbs, said Bill Blair, who retired as public works director for Bowling Green after bringing automated refuse collection to that city and who attended the Perrysburg demonstration.

They also can poke themselves with dangerous items like needles, and then there is the inherent stench of garbage and general nastiness like maggots, Mr Luce added.

"This is the best thing you can do for your employees," Mr. Blair said.

He now serves as a consultant for the service, although he attended the committee meeting out of his own interest and has not been engaged by Perrysburg, he said.

Mr. Luce said customers would appreciate how easy it is to roll the wheeled Toters to the curb, adding that the height of the handle serves as a walker of sorts for older users.

The cart will hold about five and a half times what Perrysburg residents' current 18-gallon recycle bins hold and will take up a footprint of only two of those bins side-by-side, he said.

Each customer would get one Toter for garbage and one Toter for recycling, which does not need to be separated. If drivers notice a customer often has more items than what the containers hold, one extra Toter will be given at the city's expense, Mr. Eckel said.

The service director said the estimated cost to the city for the first year would be $861,132, which includes deferred lease payment on the trucks for one year. The total is a reduction of $439,868 from the current refuse and recycling program, which includes staff, landfill tipping fees, fuel, and maintenance.

The automated trucks require only one worker to operate; current rear-loading trucks take three. The Refuse Bureau staffing level would go down to five, Mr. Eckel said. Because of state pension reform, the city is already down from nine to five employees, filling in current positions with temporary workers. Mr. Eckel said this makes the timing perfect.

Councilman John Kevern asked whether it would make better sense to purchase new vehicles. Mr. Eckel said that while he was confident this system would be well-received and would save the city money in the long run, it was prudent to not spend $300,000 on a new vehicle at this time.

"We want to make sure this works," he said.

The contract with Best Equipment includes a service contract, and company mechanic Randy Atkinson said he and the other mobile repair responder are called typically when an extra professional opinion is needed.

"The trucks normally are easy to work on," he said.

Mr. Atkinson said he could reach a downed truck in Perrysburg within three hours, and the other service technician could make it from Fort Wayne in 90 minutes.

"We have them kind of strategically placed," Mr. Luce said.

City council is scheduled to consider the automated refuse and recycling collection proposal and contract at its next regular meeting Tuesday.

Contact Rebecca Conklin at or 419-356-8796.

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