Number of Mon-Yough municipalities collecting own garbage is shrinking

| Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 3:16 a.m.

In a shrinking number of municipalities, garbage still is picked up by the public works crews rather than a contracted hauler.

“I've been doing this for 13 years,” West Mifflin public works employee Rich Belancik said during a Monday run through the borough's Homeville neighborhood.

“We were hired the same day, Jan. 9, 2001,” said fellow public works crewman Jason Tewell.

They were making the rounds just off Greensprings Avenue with Dave Martin driving the borough's garbage compacting truck, weaving its way on such narrow streets as High, Helen, Elizabeth and Irene.

“We sleep well at night,” Belancik said.

West Homestead, Munhall and West Mifflin are the last Mon-Yough municipalities where the service is done by the same crews that salt the roads in winter and patch them in summer.

“It saves the taxpayer a hell of a lot of money by our collecting the garbage ourselves,” West Homestead Mayor John J. Dindak said.

West Homestead council budgeted $105,000 for solid waste collection this year. West Homestead manager Kyle Thauvette said the $10 monthly fee brings in $112,000 annually.

“We feel our public works guys do a fantastic job,” Thauvette said. “By using them we're offering our residents the best service possible.”

Munhall charges $120 a year to those who pay in advance, otherwise the bill is $40 per quarter for a total of $160 a year.

Munhall's budget problems in recent years include what it has had to pay for workers' compensation.

During budget discussions last year council president Dan Lloyd said those premiums increased by $210,000 the past two years.

In a budget message posted on the borough's website, Munhall officials said the premium is up by $130,000 in this year's budget.

“Workers' compensation insurance pays the wages of those employees who are injured on the job,” the borough stated. “(The year) 2013 saw a significant amount of injuries on the job in Munhall.”

West Mifflin does not bill residents for garbage. Spending for the weekly refuse collection comes out of the borough's general fund, which is covered by a 7.55-mill tax rate.

That's compared to 11.75 mills next door in Munhall, but a 7.05-mill rate in West Homestead.

In Munhall and West Homestead the tax rates include one-third of a mill dedicated to Carnegie Library of Homestead. Munhall doubled its annual contribution to the library to $112,000 as a result of the levy approved by voters in November.

West Mifflin manager Brian Kamauf said a ballpark figure for his borough's spending on sanitation and recycling is $1.5 million a year.

That's out of a budget that was $13.88 million last year but increased to $16.66 million because of the purchase of a new administration building along Lebanon Road.

Munhall and West Mifflin crews collect recyclables as well, while West Homestead has voluntary collections of paper, aluminum, plastic and cardboard at the municipal building and Calhoun Field.

While most area communities have contracts with such companies as Waste Management to collect garbage, many Mon-Yough communities are not required to collect recyclables. In most that do, the contracted trash hauler also picks up the recyclables.

Communities such as North Versailles Township have municipal crews dedicated to recycling collection. Big's Sanitation conducts the weekly garbage runs there, and local crews collect recyclables the second full week of every month.

Munhall and West Mifflin each have garbage collection four days a week.

West Homestead uses a three-man crew on Tuesdays in the lower end of the borough near the Waterfront, on Thursdays in the upper end bordering on Munhall and Pittsburgh's 31st Ward.

“It makes more sense due to our population size and geographically where we are located,” Thauvette said. “We offer the residents of West Homestead a very reasonable price per year and it completely pays for the service.”

On Monday's run in Homeville, the West Mifflin crew processed a couch alongside with what was in the trash cans. In Munhall, residents can put out up to two items of furniture with the regular garbage, as long as it fits in the borough's truck.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or

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