Marion chooses to outsource trash pickup at Town Meeting

May 14, 2019

MARION — After hearing three options for trash pickup on May 13, Marion Town Meeting voters decided to outsource trash collection to Waste Management, pending a positive vote at Friday’s Annual Town Election. 

The Selectmen, Town Administrator and Finance Committee all recommended outsourcing. The strategy would mean a permanent operational override that would reset the Proposition 2-1/2 limit for Marion. 

Town voters were also given the option to purchase a new fully automated trash truck to continue town collection, or to privatize and leave trash decisions to residents. 

Marion currently owns two rear-loading trucks one, 11 years old the other 20 years old. Both trucks are beyond their expected lifespans and last year maintenance costs exceeded $85,000, prompting research on the issue.

Though a fully automated truck would help cut down on workman’s compensation for one of the most dangerous jobs in town, Selectmen recommended that the town not purchase one because new trucks have a life span of only 5 to 10 years and complex arms that need replacing more frequently.

At $400 to $500 per family, privatization would cut down the town’s responsibility, but would also be more expensive and present a safety hazard with multiple trucks scheduling simultaneous routes. 

A contract with Waste Management would cost around $420,000 for the town every year. A $121 tax increase on the median $491,000 home would make outsourcing the most economically feasible option.

Waste Management would also provide garbage bins for trash and recycling, which are warrantied and should last for 10 years.

The waste collection company would come every week for trash and every other week for recycling, freeing up the Department of Public Works employees.

The company would also pick up leaves four times a year. And, for an additional fee, will arrange to pick up dryers, dishwashers and other difficult-to-move items.

Adam Langer described his current trash pickup as inefficient and wanted to know if service would improve under Waste Management.

Selectman John Waterman responded that he was still in the process of negotiating with the company and would add that concern to the list. 

Another attendee asked whether residents would still be able to use the transfer station.

Waterman responded that since disposal, trash collection and the transfer station are all separate, residents could still visit the transfer station.

Stephen Kokkins asked about the project’s long-term financial impact. Selectmen responded that it would be a five-year contract, and that they are negotiating on two extensions still.

Waterman and the new Town Administrator, Jay McGrail, explained that part of the transition will involve lots of community outreach and education around pickup and recycling.

One older resident asked if the totes would be as large as in Mattapoisett. She currently uses bags because of a long driveway.

“They are actually not that heavy. They are only a problem if you fill them up every week,” Waterman said.

McGrail added that “even when they are full, they are fairly easy to maneuver.”

Selectmen clarified in the May 14 portion of Town Meeting that the cost for outsourcing was conservatively printed as $470,000, but would likely be $420,000 or less.  

Outsourcing trash collection will also appear as a ballot question in Friday’s town election, where it must pass with a 51 percent vote. Selectmen also emphasized that question 4 of the ballot, which deals with buying a truck, is now invalid. Town Election will be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Benjamin Cushing Community Center.