WINSLOW — Councilors at a workshop Tuesday evening decided to contract out the town’s curbside collection pending two affirmative votes from the panel.

After debating the merits of three options, the council chose to start the process to contract out the town’s trash collection at an initial cost of $332,800 with a 3 percent increase each year.

The need for a new trash compacter truck prompted the town to explore alternatives to its current system, which involves an employee driving the truck and two other trash collectors riding on the back — a system officials have deemed both antiquated as well as dangerous.

“We really didn’t want to continue with two employees on the back of the truck, so we were looking at an option to get us away from that,” said Town Manager Mike Heavener, who also sits on the Municipal Solid Waste Advisory Committee, which was charged with researching alternatives for trash collection.

Hiring a company to collect the town’s trash will save the town $22,512 over a five-year period compared to continuing with the current system.

Additionally, that option allows the Public Works Department to transfer two employees who had been riding on the truck to work on the town’s sewage system — which is in need of upkeep and repairs — and eliminate the driver position, which is currently not occupied. The elimination of that position would lessen the public works budget by more than $50,000.

Contracting the service will require the town to sign a long-term contract, but Heavener said it appeared to be the best option overall and residents wouldn’t see a change in their trash pickup.

The purchase of an automated trash truck was floated as a third option, but ultimately it presented too many logistical challenges. The driver of such a truck would operate a mechanical arm that would pick up and empty the trash bin positioned along the curb by using a sort of joy stick. That option would have required the town also to buy 64-gallon trash bins for all eligible residents. Together, the truck and 3,600 bins would cost $461,000.

On top of concerns about how residents would store and handle the large bins, the council also worried about how the town would collect trash if the truck were undergoing repair, because the bins probably would be too heavy for collectors to lift and empty. In light of that challenge, the council figured the town would need to buy another truck for $325,000, which made the option unfeasible.

The town will be receiving about $600,000 after its contract with Penobscot Energy Recovery Co., or PERC, expires in April, which will help pay contracting costs if the council approves the option.

An order for contracting out trash collection will appear on council agendas for March 12 and its meeting in April. Heavener said the council encourages residents to attend the meetings and provide input on the trash collection plan.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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