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Latrobe tires of garbage business

Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Latrobe officials want the city out of the business of operating a refuse transfer station and plan to turn it over to a garbage collector, city officials said Monday.

City council intends to advertise for bids in October for a refuse hauler to collect residential and commercial garbage in Latrobe. The bid specifications will require that the haulers bid on operating the transfer station, which consists of a scale and 40 rolloff boxes that are used by residents and businesses for dumping large amounts of refuse, said City Manager Alex Graziani.

Under a proposed schedule, bids for the garbage collection would be opened Nov. 9 and a new contract awarded during the Dec. 10 council meeting. The city would enact a yet-to-determined franchise fee for the winning hauler. The new waste service would begin in April. From January through March, the city would order and deliver garbage collection bins to residents, Graziani said.

Over the past few months, council has debated the issue of whether the city should continue to operate a transfer station, undertaking the cost of personnel to maintain vehicles and drive trucks to the Valley Landfill in Penn Township to dump what refuse is taken to the transfer station on Mission Road. It became such a divisive matter that council scrapped plans earlier this month to advertise for new bids for a refuse contract that expires Dec. 31.

“We're trying to get out of the garbage business,” said Deputy Mayor Ken Baldonieri.

The city does not want to lease the property or sell it, Baldonieri said.

By privatizing the operation of the transfer station, Baldonieri said, the city would allow at least two employees at the transfer station to be transferred to the public works department, thereby giving the city more employees for street repairs. He said none of the workers would be laid off.

Although the transfer station generated $757,297 in revenue in 2011 — a year of increased activity from the replacement of roofs damaged by storm — the operations netted only about $31,000 in a typical year, according to a study conducted for the city by Michele Nestor, president of Nestor Resources Inc., a Valencia-based consulting firm that specializes in the economics and policies of solid waste management.

But Nestor said that net figure does not account for all of the expenses that should be deducted for employee time spent at the transfer station or amortizing the equipment.

“It is the best we can do without manipulating the figures,” Graziani said.

While the city's sanitation department generates a “respectable cash flow” for Latrobe, it does so as a result of a generous mark-up to the garbage collection and recycling fees billed to local residents and businesses, Nestor's study found. Joseph Bush, public works director, restated his opposition to the plan to remove the city from operating the transfer station.

“I think we are rushing into something,” Bush said, adding that he has had “very little input on the study.”

Councilwoman Rosie Wolford said she thought the city might be moving too quickly on the matter, but did not oppose seeking bids for operating the transfer station.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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