WATERVILLE — Starting July 10, residents can expect to see public works employees using a city truck to collect recyclables at the curb since the company that has been doing it the last three years ended its contract and decided not to continue.

Sullivan’s Waste Disposal, of Thorndike, collected recycling for $72,000 a year. The city sought bids from other companies to do the job, but the two that responded wanted more than $200,000 annually.

The City Council, at the recommendation of the city’s solid waste and recycling committee, decided the city should take over recycling, hire another public works employee, buy a new packer truck that can take both recyclables and trash, and ultimately do both collections.

Public Works Director Mark Turner said that buying the truck, estimated to cost about $200,000, would involve the City Council’s including it in the municipal budget, which has not yet been approved because the city does not know yet how much money the city will receive from the state for education.

In the meantime, public works will continue to pick up trash at the curb weekly with the truck it uses now and use its 1999 spare packer truck to collect single-sort recyclables biweekly. Sullivan’s also picked up recyclables every other week.

By starting recycling pickup the week of July 10 as opposed to July 1, Turner was able to devise a schedule whereby only two holidays, Labor Day and Christmas, would be affected during the next six months.

In other words, in the past when a holiday fell on a Monday, recycling would be picked up on Tuesday, but the city will not be able to do that. However, it will pick up trash on Tuesday if the holiday falls on Monday.

“Because we only have one truck to do recycling, we can not do double holiday collections,” Turner said. “I’m trying to avoid as many holidays as possible, so I staggered the first week so we’ll have only three holidays that will be affected.”

City Manager Michael Roy said Thursday that he is optimistic that the new system will work well.

“I think it’s clear to many of us in city government that curbside recycling has been an important part of our whole solid waste picture,” Roy said. “I think people have come to support the recycling initiative, so I think it’s important.”

He said that when the city instituted the pay-as-you-throw system of trash collection three summers ago, it was the prime mover in reducing the city’s trash flow 54 percent.

“Recycling was one of the components of reducing that flow,” Roy said.

If the city gets the new truck, city officials say, they hope to collect recycling every week instead of every other week, thereby reducing the load.

“That way, people will have less volume and it’ll be a lot easier for our guys because they’re out there (collecting trash) anyway,” he said.

He said residents are used to having recyclables picked up on Tuesday if Monday, their regular collection day, is a holiday. However, that no longer will happen, even with a new truck.

“We’ll have only one truck and that truck can only handle one day of recycling,” he said. “The recycling takes up a lot more room in the truck, and we can only fit one day in.”

With a new truck, the regular trash collection crew would be able to collect recycling as well and not have to be diverted to work on snow removal. Employees collecting recycling with the old packer truck for the first several months might have to be taken off that job, however, if there is a snowstorm and they are needed to do snow work, according to Turner.

“That’ll be the challenge until we get that split packer truck,” he said.

Sullivan collects recyclables and trucks them to ecomaine in Portland. Starting July 10, the city will take recyclables to Waste Management in Norridgewock, and Waste Management will haul them to ecomaine. Currently, Waterville trash is hauled to Oakland and then taken to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington; but when the city’s contract with PERC expires March 30 next year, the city will take the trash to Norridgewock.

“So that split packer truck — if we get it — next April will make one trip to Norridgewock with both recycling and trash,” Turner said.

“We’re going to have to do some strategic planning as to how we’re going to go beyond December. As soon as I’m sure the council is OK with buying the split packer truck — I’m kind of waiting until I get clearance through the budget process to proceed, and I’m told it takes up to six to eight months for the truck to be built.”

He said it is possible to get a truck sooner if, for instance, the city is willing to take a truck that is a color other than orange — the color of its trucks now.

“I’ll take a white truck. That’s fine,” Turner said.

He said he is confident the Public Works Department will be able to at least provide fairly consistent service until a new truck is purchased.

“But it’s going to be impacted by snowstorms and that sort of thing through the winter, because these people really do have to be diverted to snow removal,” he said.

There is also the potential for equipment breakdowns, as the old packer truck, a 1999 Volvo, already has had three transmissions replaced.

“It’s well-maintained and it runs good, but if we start putting it out there more frequently, there’s more chance that it could have more mechanical difficulties,” Turner said.

He said people who want to take recyclables to I Recycle on Armory Road may do so at no cost. That facility, formerly called Shredding on Site, is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 7 a.m. to noon Saturday, he said.

“They can bring it all mixed and sort as they go,” he said. “The bins are next to each other.”

Turner said he thinks the city’s taking over recycling pickup will save the city some money.

“A little bit. Maybe even more as we move along, and it is more efficient and we get used to it. I always have to stay positive because I have a good crew here and it’s a very popular program, and we’re going to do our best to continue to provide a good service that people appreciate.”

Turner noted that the city’s website, www.waterville-me.gov, has a calendar for recycling pickup through December. Notices of changes or cancellations will be posted there, as well as on the city’s Facebook page.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17