The Orem City Council on Tuesday discussed adopting an automated garbage collection system that could cost up to $1.38 million and raise monthly residential trash bills between 40 cents and $1.04.
"We have been interested in automated trucks since 1979, but in the beginning, the technology was poor and the containers weren't very good," said Jack Jones, director of Orem public works. "The equipment and trucks are now high quality, so we decided to gather new information so the council could decide if it was interested."Daryl Berlin, city manager, said the main advantage would be to garbage collectors.
"They hustle eight hours a day, five days a week, lifting 40 or 50 pounds each time they lift a can. We are wearing them out."
Most collectors quit because of injury or chronic pain, he said.
Jones said the job turnover rate is high, and it takes several months to train a new employee.
"With automated trucks, they could think of making this a career, an option they don't have now because of the wear on their bodies."
Jones outlined pros and cons of the system.
"People already think our trash collection costs are a little higher than other areas," he said. They are actually second to lowest in the area, he said, but Orem adds the cost of administration, billing and spring cleanup, which other cities account for separately.
"Another advantage is this would be a cleaner city without trash lining the street," he said.
Ott Damron, solid waste and fleet services division manager, said the standard 90-gallon trash container most cities choose with their automated systems usually holds all the trash a family can generate in a week. (Families generating more could rent an extra can, he said). The container keeps garbage from being spread by small animals and wind gusts, he said, and the wheels on the cans make them easy to move.
The hydraulic lift also keeps potentially dangerous waste away from collectors, he said. He told of an operator who had inhaled dry pesticides from a broken plastic bag. The man began coughing up blood and had to be hospitalized, Damron said.
A random survey of 50 Provo residents indicated they were happy with their automated system, he said.
The main barrier, besides the cost, is that Orem residents are already happy with their collection service, he said.
"It might actually cause a reduction in service, since we are currently picking up whatever they put on the curb in whatever amount."
The council discussed ways to keep costs down, such as selling old equipment and using reserve funds.
Council members decided to discuss the matter further before the next budget year. They also asked the city staff to collect information on privatization of trash collection and on whether Orem needs to add an equipment replacement fee to monthly bills.