Staples, Minn.,
23
February
2018
|
04:18 PM
Europe/Amsterdam

Innovations in Technology Help Municipalities Take Trash “In-House”

City harnesses the power of cooperative purchasing in setting up its waste collection service

City of Alabaster Public Works Director Mark Harris (left) and City Manager Brian Binzer (right) stand in front of one of the six Freightliner M2 106 truck chassis the city purchased through NJPA

City harnesses the power of cooperative purchasing in setting up its waste collection service

By Jenny Holmes

Innovations in technology are making it possible for more municipalities to take trash in-house, so to speak.

The city of Alabaster, Alabama is one of the latest cities to discontinue its private waste management contract and offer it to residents as a municipal service. City Manager Brian Binzer said Alabaster had informal discussions for several years in regard to starting its own garbage service. Committed to three-year contract stints with a private vendor, the city had time to weigh the pros and cons and determine if this growing trend was a good fit for its residents.

“With garbage service, no matter who’s operating, you’re going to get a ton of complaints,” Binzer noted. “Things happen, things don’t get picked up. From a customer service standpoint, the city was getting those calls and handling them anyway. We just felt like, if we’re finishing the job from a customer service standpoint, why don’t we take it in-house. Because the ­Public Works Department, led by Mark Harris, does such a great job of quickly responding to our citizens’ needs, we felt very comfortable trusting them to open this important operation.”

In our experience, cooperatives like the NJPA have been highly effective in getting the best price, quality, and selection that meets the specifications we need. The process saves time and money while still providing an open, transparent way to receive goods and meet state and local law.
Brian Binzer (right), city manager of Alabaster

“We wanted to assure our residents that we wouldn’t hike up rates. Taking all things into consideration, the numbers worked so that we could continue to charge residents a little over $15 a month, and now we don’t have to cut a check to a vendor. It all made sense.”

The city made the unanimous decision to discontinue their private carrier contract late in 2016 and purchased six garbage trucks—four full-service haulers and two for recycling—through a contract with National Joint Powers Alliance® (NJPA). Binzer said Alabaster spent roughly $4.2 million on the project, which includes the trucks, purchase of 23,000 collection carts, and construction of a new public works facility where trucks can be housed and maintained.

Through NJPA Contract #112014-THC, Alabaster worked with Ingram Equipment Company to purchase Heil DuraPack Python Automated Side Loaders on Freightliner M2 106 truck chassis.

The automated side-loading lift mechanism of the Python allows increased speed and decreased manpower, resulting in more cost-effective operations, not to mention the increase in safety for haulers.

Wil Hovater, salesman with Ingram Equipment, said his company worked closely with the city to ensure a seamless process from start to finish.

“The customer loved being able to spec every detail of the equipment,” Hovater said, “and then purchase the whole package from their local Heil dealer at very competitive prices straight from the respective NJPA contracts. It was a great experience.”

Binzer said this was not his city’s first experience utilizing cooperative purchasing power through NJPA.

“In our experience, cooperatives like the NJPA have been highly effective in getting the best price, quality, and selection that meets the specifications we need. The process saves time and money while still providing an open, transparent way to receive goods and meet state and local law. The city has utilized NJPA with great success in the past and they have been wonderful in meeting all of our high expectations.”

Alabaster, located just south of Birmingham, has roughly 34,000 residents, of which about 12,000 currently receive city-provided garbage service.

Prior to providing garbage service, the city had a long-standing history of offering weekly curbside pickup for brush and yard debris, which they plan to continue. But Binzer said that initial service has allowed Public Works employees a familiarization with routes and a smooth transition into solid waste disposal and collection.

“Like anything, we’re working through some growing pains,” he said. “We’ve had to change some of the routes to allow us to run more efficiently. We’ve also had to work to get the word out to our residents. We’ve been sharing updates and information on our city newsletter, on our website, and on Facebook. Even doing all of those things, word doesn’t always get out. So we’ve added an area on our website where people log in and report concerns. We have also been taking phone calls to answer questions and further assist with information.”

So far, the decision has proved to be a win-win for Alabaster and its residents, as well as an opportunity to tout how far technology has come in the solid waste industry.

“Technology in these trucks has really changed,” Binzer agreed. “It used to be an issue where you had to have at least three people on each truck—one to drive and two on back to grab and dump the carts. Now, it takes a driver and a joystick. It’s not as labor-intensive, which makes it much more financially feasible and opens up the door for a lot of cities.”  

About NJPA

Sourcewell (formerly National Joint Powers Alliance) is a self-supporting government organization, partnering with education, government, and nonprofits to boost student and community success. Created in 1978 as one of Minnesota’s nine service cooperatives, we offer training and shared services to our central-Minnesota members. Throughout North America, we offer a cooperative purchasing program with over 200 awarded vendors on contract. Sourcewell is driven by service and the ability to strategically reinvest in member communities.

This piece originally appeared in MSW Management Magazine of Forrester Media  MSW_bug_web