Talking trash

City moves forward with Arrow Refuse negotiations

Posted: Sunday, April 04, 2010

The city is moving forward in its negotiations with Arrow Refuse. At stake is the future of trash - or lack of trash - in Juneau.

The city is negotiating with Arrow in order to obtain the certificate conferred by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska that gives Arrow a monopoly on trash pickup. The negotiations have been in the works for months, but were stalled at a recent meeting when Assembly members learned for the first time that the certificate could come with a price tag of several million dollars.

At a five-hour work session on Saturday, Public Works Director Joe Buck said there had been "some confusion" as to Arrow's initial proposal to the city to transfer the certificate.

"There were a number of items in the proposal that have a significant economic impact on them that we weren't really paying attention to," he said.

Some of those conditions were the Assembly passing a universal mandatory trash pickup ordinance, which would expand Arrow's customer base by 20 percent, automating the trash pickup system. That would lead to decreased insurance and payroll costs for the company, curbside recycling collection, Assembly rate setting, a ten-year contract with two five-year renewal extensions, automatic CPI rate and contract adjustments, and the city receiving a three-to five-percent franchise fee.

Arrow would have retained all increased profit from efficiency improvements.

"They were going to make a lot more money over the ten years that would compensate them for the value of the certificate. That's why they weren't asking for a dollar value," he said.

If implemented, those conditions would have a "significant" financial impact on city residents, Buck said. Though those conditions are still possibilities, their approval by the Assembly is not guaranteed.

The city is now looking at a 10-year contract agreement, and realized savings from efficiency improvements accruing to the city.

The Assembly would keep rates stable for about two years after the certificate transfer, according to current discussion.

Buck reiterated the need for Juneau to obtain the certificate before it can change the city's waste disposal methods.

"Control of the waste stream is the most important thing. Without it we don't have a lot of say," he said.

Any decision about whether or not the city wanted to continue pursuing recycling, or another means of disposal like incineration, or "bells and whistles" like automated pickup, would come after it gains the certificate, Buck said.

The Assembly also discussed other options, such as having several drop bins for recycling at locations throughout the city, instead of curbside pickup.

Curbside recycling pickup would likely be complicated by the need to have separate waste streams, necessitating new equipment, Buck said.

He also said in order to implement drop boxes successfully, it would be necessary to have mandatory pickup. Otherwise, he said some people would use the bins for trash disposal.

Currently, the city's waste expenditures total more than $1 million annually, Buck said.

Of that, about $380,000 is for the Household Hazardous Waste program, $400,000 for junked vehicles, and $182,000 for recycling. The rest is administrative.

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