WHITMAN — The price tag for trash pickup is going back up to $250 a year per household in fiscal 2016 beginning immediately — it had been reduced to $225 last year.
Selectmen approved the increase by a 4-0 vote Tuesday, Sept. 29 on the recommendation of Town Administrator Frank Lynam, who explained the cost quotes received from other haulers in the wake of DelPrete’s bankruptcy have all been higher than expected.
Selectman Scott Lambiase was absent.
Lynam has said he hopes that amount will be enough to cover services while a new contract with the present hauler is negotiated as service continues, but voiced doubts about that Tuesday night.
“Even at $250, I suspect we’re going to end up with a deficit,” Lynam said. “We will plan and prepare for that at the special Town Meeting within the annual. I just don’t want to go up another $50. We’ll see where this takes us.”
A new contract is expected to be in place by December or January.
“To tell you the truth, I’m not happy,” Selectman Dan Salvucci said.
“Neither am I, but there’s no one out there,” Lynam said. “Right now, there’s only two companies that we’re talking to and one of them hasn’t responded to our proposal.”
He said it is becoming more difficult to find companies that will take solid waste and recycling market has bottomed to the point that the town has to pay a tipping fee for it.
EZ Disposal of Revere, a division of Capitol Waste Services Inc., has been providing waste hauling services to the town since June.
The company has proposed moving to an automated system, such as is used in Abington. The trucks are fitted out with a mechanical device that lifts barrels to empty them into the truck.
Lynam said that, regardless of which firm the town contracts with going forward, the town will be looking at the barrel change associated with automated pickup.
“There is a cost associated with that,” Lynam has said. “It’s in the $320,000 to $350,000 range for the barrels.”
Each household would be provided two 64-gallon tubs, both equipped with lift-bars, which current barrels do not have. One trash barrel and one recycle barrel are included. The new barrels carry serial numbers that will be assigned by household.
Selectmen Brian Bezanson asked if the current pink Breast Cancer Awareness barrels, with a similar lift-bar could still be used.
“It’s under discussion, but they might make nice yard-waste barrels,” Lynam said. “The problem is the carrier is going to have to be able to identify barrels.”
There will also be a charge for the one large item per week that has been picked up free to homeowners, with one contractor proposing a $20 fee, but Lynam hopes to negotiate it to $10.
In other business, both Police Chief Scott Benton and Fire Chief Timothy Grenno gave their monthly department updates, reporting that call volume continues to be increasing this year over 2014 levels.
Benton said call volume is currently 9,163 against 7,351 last year. Current all other services expenditures are also up by $38,874.78, mainly due to a union contract raise and increased training.
“Training is good for everybody,” Benton said. “It’s good for morale — you want to train, you want to learn. I don’t think we ever stop learning. I hope we don’t.”
Expenses are lower by $4,693.44, however, and utility costs are down $691.60 but winter and another expected increase in electricity rates will likely reverse that trend.
Grenno reported costs for his all other services budget are up by about 1 percent, due to vacation coverage. One firefighter is also out on an injury and two others are or will be out on family medical leave.
Call volume is up to 2,074 or 187 more than the January to September period in 2014. The fire station has been empty 234 times, or an average of one time per day for a period of from 10 to 20 minutes — generally one or two times per day — due to the call volume.
“We try to maintain three firefighters at all times back in the station on coverage,” Grenno said, noting that 23 out of 41 times either none or less than two firefighters were available on a call-back basis. “We’re basically at that point that I’ve been talking about for years, that we can handle calls one and two — call three, not so much.”
General medical calls, with no chief complaint, account for the majority of EMS calls, Grenno said, followed by psychological or behavior issues and orthopedic cases. This year, however, fire calls are outpacing medical calls.
Grenno also said his grant and capital lists include the goal of purchasing a new Jaws of Life as the current one needs replacing.