As Gene Tewalt listens, Jacob Meza, right asks staff if new numbers match the old numbers council got in May. / Photos by Roger Bianchini.
FRONT ROYAL – At a Tuesday, January 16, work session Front Royal Public Works staff explained what happened to the Town’s plan to move to single-stream (unseparated) recycling, then analyzed the cost, pros and cons of maintaining its residential trash collection service.
Fueled by staff analysis that contracting out trash collection to a private, for-profit business would cost the Town and its taxpayers an additional $635,000 annually, the verbal unanimous consensus to maintain the Town’s Solid Waste Department trash collection services appeared to be a no-brainer.
“I think we have a bargain … and should stay with what we have been doing,” Mayor Hollis Tharpe said following a power point presentation by Public Services Manager Robert Boyer under the watchful eye of Environmental Services Director Jimmy Hannigan. Eventually, all six councilmen agreed.
Environmental Services Director Jimmy Hannigan, (standing left) and Robert Boyer, (at podium), assure council the Town will save $635,000 annually –at least the next three years–maintain solid waste collection.
As for the plan to move from separated to non-separated, single-stream recycling that seemed on the horizon early last fall, a failure to get a single bid on two Requests For Proposals (RFP’s) the Town issued, explains why town residents are still asked to separate their recycling. That is not likely to change any time soon.
Sans bids, town staff met with the sales manager of Manassas-based American Disposal to discuss single-stream recycling. They were informed the company wasn’t accepting new clients and was in the process of raising prices for existing customers to cover an estimated monthly loss of $400,000 to $500,000 at their facility.
Solid waste variables
The bargain on maintaining residential trash collection that the mayor referenced included an estimate that if outsourced, base residential trash collection costs would rise from the current level of $14.10 a month by about 70% to $23.99.
However, council’s decision to maintain residential trash collection didn’t come before a detailed examination of the numbers presented in support of the staff recommendation to maintain that service. Jacob Meza led that examination, questioning costs in both past town budgets and in a staff analysis of trash collection options presented at a work session last May.
Pointing to an apparent gap of only $190,000 between a past solid waste budget ($982,000) and projected annual outsourcing costs of $1,171,402, Boyer pointed out the outsourcing number Meza was looking at did not include $411,033 in annual tipping fees the Town would be charged. In fact, those tipping fees counted for $6.59 of the $9.89 increase in estimated monthly costs to customers.
Boyer also pointed out that council approved $240,000 for the purchase of a new trash collection truck in last year’s budget. Dropping the service, the Town would be stuck with that purchase and nothing to do with the truck other than figuring out how much of a loss it would take on an attempt to unload (pun intended) it.
As for the projected need to purchase additional replacement trash trucks and recycling trailers ($45,000 to $50,000 each for the latter) at some future point, Town Manager Joe Waltz said the new truck would be paid for by the time the next truck needed to be purchased. Waltz added that staff could guarantee that residential trash collection rates could be kept stable for the next three years. The staff power point also stated that the Town would continue to realize a $20,000 annual profit on traditional recycling collection in house.
Asked what staff wanted from council Tuesday night, Waltz responded a decision on the future direction of the town trash and recycling collection service. That decision was being sought to assure solid waste staff they would continue to have jobs in the coming year or years. Boyer’s power point presentation noted that as of January 2017 several solid waste collection staff positions had been lost in the wake of the fact council was considering outsourcing the service became known. While all but two of those lost positions have since been filled, the department will continue to wrestle with staff turnover without a guarantee the department would be kept.
With staff numbers on relative costs and service advantages explained, council concurred with both staff and the mayor’s position that in-house trash and recycling collection services are in the best interest of the town and its citizens.