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Published: Friday, 1/30/2009

City mulls savings for trash collection

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The city is looking at the savings it could realize if it replaces city workers with employees from a private company. The city is looking at the savings it could realize if it replaces city workers with employees from a private company.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Switching Toledo's trash collection to a private firm would save the city $3.6 million a year during a time it's facing multimillion-dollar budgets deficits, the head of the city's public service division said yesterday.

A second option, which would save nearly $3 million a year, is to spend $12.2 million to buy 40 new automated refuse trucks and continue with city workers collecting trash and recyclables, Bill Franklin, the city's public service director, said.

"We are going to decide within the next week on which to recommend" to Toledo City Council, Mr. Franklin said. "We have identified automation as the most effective way to collect trash and it's just now a matter of if we have our own city workforce or a private work force."

Julian Highsmith, commissioner of the city division of solid waste, said Toledo's aging fleet of trash trucks has to be replaced no matter which plan is chosen, since they will cost $800,000 this year for maintenance and regular repairs.

<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO17150419.GIF> <b><font color=red>VIEW</b></font color=red>: <a href="/assets/pdf/TO63808130.PDF" target="_blank "><b>February garbage schedule</b></a>
<br clear=all> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO17150419.GIF> <b><font color=red>VIEW</b></font color=red>: <a href="/assets/pdf/TO63808130.PDF" target="_blank "><b>February garbage schedule</b></a> <br clear=all>
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The city would have to spend $9.67 million under either plan to buy 200,000 containers that automated trash trucks could lift. The city spent $11.7 million last year for refuse collection, and the cost will be about $12 million in 2009. Those figures do not include the cost to maintain the city's Hoffman Road Landfill.

"We have tried to cut back every way we can, but we need a larger change," Mr. Franklin said.

Last year, the city cut the number of trash routes, started a 7,500-home pilot program to test automated pickup, and set up a new collections schedule that took effect on Jan. 2.

Refuse collection days now leap ahead one business day after each city holiday, which results in no weekend holiday collection to save the city about $400,000 a year in overtime. Recyclables are still picked up every other week.

The 13 holidays are New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents' Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas.

Collection will leap two days for back-to-back holidays such as Christmas Eve and Christmas. The city posted a color-coded 2009 calendar on its Web site, www.ci.toledo.oh.us, and set up a hot line at 419-245-1494. Collection days are color-coded: It is yellow for those whose pickup was Monday. Tuesday is green, Wednesday is orange, Thursday is blue, and Friday is red. For recycling: If you were an "A" customer, you are a "1." If you were a "B" customer, you are a "2."

Councilman Wilma Brown said she opposed hiring a private firm to collect Toledoans' trash. "I think the system of automation we are using is working," Mrs. Brown said. "The idea of going to privatization, I will not vote for."

Councilman D. Michael Collins also voiced concerns.

"Is it worth losing control of the process if the variance is less than 10 percent?" Mr. Collins asked. "It would also be impossible to go back after you've switched."

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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