Queen Creek Town Council hosts talks on future of solid waste services

A view of a Phoenix metropolitan community’s solid waste department’s operations where the municipality offers a rubbish and recycling pick-up program. (File photo)

Because a 10-year agreement with a trash and recycling collection provider expires in 2020, Town of Queen Creek officials looked into what it would cost to provide the services in-house or contracting them out again.

The Town Council on April 17 was briefed on the results of a feasibility study that included a comparison of personnel-related costs, acquisition of equipment, repairs and fleet fueling.

Troy White

“Is there anything that we can do better? Is there any other way that we can do this at a lower rate and continue to provide the same level of service we’re providing to the residents that we do now? So, can we bring all of the services in-house?” Troy White, public works director, said to the council.
Costs for trash and recycling in-house plus other similar services already provided by the town would start at about $22-$22.50 a month vs. $16.63-$23.58 a month if the town goes out for a new contract with a business, he said.

“It is still cheaper to just do it the way we’re doing it and use the private market to provide the trash and recycling services to the town and just do it through contracted services with the town,” Mr. White said.

Town staff members are recommending a procurement process be started no later than July 2019 for a new 10-year contract. The contract would be for seven years with an option of three one-year extensions, he said.

Vice Mayor Robin Benning (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Councilmember Jeff Brown said he agrees with the staff’s recommendation.

“I love the staff advice. I think that’s sage advice. It’s the one that pencils out the best for the town and the residents,” he said.

“For comparison’s sake, though, I would like to know just how costly it would be from an initial start-up cost — how many millions, I assume — it would cost for the town to get into the trash-collection business, with respect to trucks and infrastructure and the whole bit; and then on the same lines, how long would it take to implement something like that?” Councilmember Brown said.

Eighteen trash/recycling trucks costing $300,000 each would be needed by the town, said Scott Pasternak of Burns and McDonnell, which provided the study.

Infrastructure costs, such as for a parking lot and expanding fleet-maintenance capabilities, would cost several million dollars. A two-year transition is needed, with buying the trucks a one-year process because of a backlog, he said.

Councilmember Jake Hoffman (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Councilmember Jake Hoffman said there has been instability in the global recycling market, including China not taking recyclables, and asked if safeguards cold be included in future contracts to protect against rate increases.

Transfer station

The study looked at having a town trash and recycling transfer station, Mr. White said.

“A transfer station is a way that you can actually cut costs in your program, but it costs so much to get up. You have to have enough members paying into the system for that to actually be the right time to start up and now is not the right time to start that up,” he said.

The Queen Creek landfill, before it closed in May 2007, was where many residents took their trash, Mr. White said.

“We had many members of our community that were using the landfill as their trash service; they didn’t have a service provider. They were actually using the landfill as their service. That was a concern for the council, so in 2007 the town council approved the first solid-waste study,” he said.

Residents were serviced by seven trash-hauling businesses until the council in 2010 approved a contract with Right Away Disposal for trash and recycling collection.

“And, some of them were in the same neighborhood, so you would have literally trucks running six days a week in these neighborhoods. There was a concern for safety and also a concern for wear and tear” on local roads, Mr. White said of having so many trash haulers.

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