By Seth Daniel
City Manager Tom Ambrosino has submitted a plan to the City Council to potentially expand the recycling program to all of the large apartment buildings and condo complexes in the city, and to the Housing Authority properties as well – an expansion that will mean a serious increase in the trash contract and to the resident trash fee.
After getting several requests over the last year from the Council to begin looking into recycling programs for apartment buildings and condos, Ambrosino said he began discussions recently with the City’s trash vendor, Russell Disposal, to expand the program to an additional 7,000-plus households living in large apartment buildings and condo complexes.
The expansion of the program would mean Russell would have to buy an additional recycling truck and staff it at a cost of $352,700 per year of the remaining four years on the contract. Ambrosino said that is a 33 percent increase to the price of trash disposal per year. However, he said, having the additional truck in the city would mean all of the condo complexes over eight units that are not currently covered by City recycling program, will now be covered by it.
That, however, will come at a cost to them and to everyone else.
“The downside to the program is the additional cost to our residents in the form of increased trash fees,” he wrote. “The City’s trash fee program is intended to operate on a break even basis. So, the addition of a program that will add at least $352,700 in costs each of the next four years…over and above the annual increases built into the…contracts will require large annual trash fee increases.”
He said he would not seek to recover the additional costs in one year, but would spread it out over four years. Still, he cautioned, that would mean annual trash fee increases of about 10 percent per year.
The trash fee in Chelsea does not apply to owner-occupant units, but to any apartments.
The upside to the program is that the large buildings and the Housing Authority – both of whom now do not have recycling – being included would represent a tremendous expansion of recycling. That would help the environmental aspects of the issue, and also it would help to decrease the payments the City makes to the RESCO incinerator in Saugus for “tipping fees” for disposal of trash.
Those tipping fees are expected to increase in the next few years, with it going to $67.90 on July 1.
“Obviously, there are major environmental benefits to expansion of the recycling program,” he wrote. “Further, over time, expansion of recycling may have a cost benefit. Each additional ton of recycling typically means one less ton of solid waste disposed of at RESCO. We don’t pay for recycling disposal…So, increasing our recycling tonnage should reduce our overall solid waste disposal costs.”
Another cost Ambrosino outlined is the initial purchase of recycling bins for the estimated 7,500 new households expected to be included in the expansion.
The cost of buying 7,500, 64-gallon recycling bins would be $305,700. One bin per unit would go out to residents in the city. He is proposing to cover that cost through an expenditure of the Free Cash.
Weighing the positives and negatives, Ambrosino did recommend going forward with the expansion.
However, to do so will require several affirmative votes of the City Council.
The Council did not comment at its meeting Monday night when apprised of the plan, but sent it to committee for deliberation. If adopted, the plan would start in the next fiscal year, around July 1.