Trash Changes Create Room for MHS Renovations
Melrose will end its municipal trash hauling service and contract trash pick-up to a private company, among other changes intended to reorganize the way the DPW does business and generate savings that would allow the city to renovate the high school.
Editor's note: This article was updated on Thursday at 11:41 a.m. For potential but as-of-yet unfinalized possible changes to trash pickup, scroll down to the subhead "Trash changes."
Plans to privatize trash pickup in Melrose for the first time ever and reorganize the way the city's Public Works Department does business should generate enough future savings to tackle needed renovations at Melrose High School, Mayor Rob Dolan said at a press conference on Tuesday.
As City Hall begins preparing for the next fiscal year, Dolan said that having already secured pension reform, a one-year wage freeze and moving city employees' health insurance to the state Group Insurance Commision (GIC), Melrose is short on opportunities for big chunks of savings. Meanwhile, after years of local aid cuts, Dolan said the city must prepare as if it won't receive any new aid next year.
Meanwhile, Melrose High School is dealing with a reaccreditiation report that gave the school a warning status in part because of the building's condition.
Dolan said that City Hall is currently working on a plan to renovate the high school without a debt exclusion or an override—a goal he previously put forth—without taking funding from elsewhere in the school district and without increasing the trash fee during still-trying times.
"We need to clear room in our bonding capacity and we need to take a look at every department to try and find ways outside of the schools to make some savings, and make the departments relevant to today's world," he said, citing as examples the Melrose Fire Department's revival of the ambulance service and the regionalized Health Department.
The reorganization of the Melrose DPW should produce those savings, Dolan said, in part by bringing more work in-house rather contracting out those services, while updating the department's operations to better serve the needs of the city.
Hybrid model mixes contracts, city employee approach
- A private company will take over curbside collection of residential trash. Currently, the city operates its own trash trucks. Starts early February 2012.
- The one large mowing and maintenance contract, currently held by GTA Landscaping of Everett, will be divided into more narrowly focused contracts. A new Public Works Open Space Maintenance Division comprised of city workers will maintain smaller sites throughout the city, with care of larger sites contracted out. Starts mid-March 2012.
- Custodial services at City Hall, Melrose Police Station, DPW City Yard, Melrose Public Library and Council on Aging will be merged. Starts early June 2012.
- Police cruisers will join the Public Works fleet, with maintenance being performed in house at the new City Yard, instead of sent out to dealers for work. Starts early July 2012.
- The re-introduction of middle management—which had been completely eliminated within the DPW—with a business manager who oversees the contracts and costs, and serves as the customer service focal point for the DPW. Also, all DPW operations currently in City Hall's basement will be moved to the new City Yard. Starts mid-November 2011.
Melrose Deputy City Engineer said that the reorganization of the department—and the elimination of the public trash hauling in particular—will redefine the DPW.
"We go away from the big truck, trash haulers, which truly dictates our every day right now," Scenna said. "We get away from that and we become truly service-oriented, where we focus on maintenance and cleaning—a completely different path. I think we become more sustainable and I think, long-term, we can better impact Melrose by maintaining greens spaces, school grounds and open spaces."
The privatization of trash pick-up probably means the elimination of Saturday pick-ups and might mean trash will only be picked up two days each week in Melrose, Dolan said. There would also be "reasonable" limits on the number of barrels each home could put out—"Some cities do one-to-two barrels, we may do four," he said—and residents could still call with special request pick-ups for larger items.
"They’ll get the same service that they’re getting for the fee, with the knowledge that fee won’t be increased," Dolan said. Any changes are contigent upon the final agreement between the city and whichever private company wins the bid on the trash hauling contract.
The DPW will continue collecting trash at the schools, yard waste and recycling, the latter of which DPW Superintendent Bob Beshara said brings in $8,000-10,000 in revenue to the city each month.
Trash trucks can cost up to $300,000 each, are expensive to repair and wear out fairly quickly, Dolan said. Also, they drive to Haverhill each day, where the transfer station with the least expensive trash rates is located. All those will be savings realized by the move to a private hauling company.
Dolan and Beshara both also commented on the physical toll that trash hauling takes on city employees. With trash hauling no longer on their to-do list, employees will be freed up for other tasks, while potentially reducing the city's worker compensation costs.
"Has anybody left trash without going into medical retirement?" Beshara said. "They've all ended up at that point going into medical retirement."
Dolan added it's difficult to get employees who haul 12 tons of trash each day to come in and work overnight in the case of snow emergencies, adding that "even at time and a half," paying employees for snow removal is less expensive than paying contractors for the same work.