Selectmen discuss long, short-term trash truck solutions

Mar 20, 2019

MARION — As Marion struggles to fix one trash truck, its backup truck had its engine explode last week, rendering the engine useless, and leaving the Selectmen and Department of Public Works to fix both trucks.

The Interim Director of the Department of Public Works, Jon Henry, appeared before the Selectmen on March 19 to explain the situation, calling the backup truck’s current engine “non-reparable”

The first truck that broke is scheduled to be completed a week from this Friday. For now the town has been renting another trash truck, which costs $1,200 a day. 

Henry has located an old school bus engine in Marion which he believes can be swapped with the engine of the second truck. He states that the Department of Public Works can do the job in a week.

As a result, Henry said, it would take until May 1 for trash collection to be a two-truck-operation again. He added that the route is possible to do with one truck, but only with a lot of overtime.

Though Selectmen initially seemed reluctant to put more money into the trucks, the first of which has had multiple problems over the last few months, Selectman Randy Parker noted that, “if we don’t fix it we’re going to have a truck that’s not worth anything unless someone wants to do a body swap.”

“Now when I have a bad dream it’s about trash trucks,” Selectman John Waterman joked. 

For the short-term, Selectmen authorized $6,200 to be spent on one truck $5,000 on the other truck and $1,200 in miscellaneous expenses to go to the finance committee.

The Selectmen and Town Administrator also mulled how to fix the problem more permanently at Town Meeting. The issue of the trash trucks will be presented as two related articles and a ballot question.

One warrant article would ask if the town wants to outsource trash pickup and recycling to a commercial provider. The town is currently waiting for the results of an RFP to see how much this would cost.

If the first article is not approved, a second would propose spending $582,090 on a rubbish packer trash truck. If the town elects to outsource collection in the previous warrant article this article will be ignored

The trash truck problem will also trigger a special town meeting within the normal Town Meeting to allow voter to answer a ballot question on whether to spend about $50,000 on the truck.

Town Administrator Paul Dawson said that the issue is “extremely complex, more complex than any other article I’ve worked on in my career.”

After discussing how the town would proceed if the warrant provides one allocation and voters changed the sum on the floor of town meeting, the Selectmen closed the warrant.

This closure finalizes all the details of the warrant except for the price of outsourcing the trash collection, since that figure will arrive Tuesday. It also subjects the final warrant to scrutiny by the Department of Revenue’s legal team before it is accepted and printed.