City to tackle trash with toters

BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon City Waste Department will be ready to roll out its new garbage collection toter system – quite literally – in April, city council learned Thursday.

Mayor David McCauley updated council on the toter system the city is implementing this spring and summer to simplify the city’s waste collection system.

Toters are 96-gallon trash containers on two wheels, and almost every customer the city serves will be assigned a specific toter with a bar code and an “RF” tag attached to it that will be linked to each customer in the city’s database.

“There’s a toter cart that goes to each individual residential customer throughout the netherlands of Upshur County,” McCauley said at the meeting. The mayor said that any bags which don’t fit inside the cart can be brought directly to the city’s solid waste transfer station after securing additional tags from city hall.

“This is a 96-gallon big, ginormous, huge container,” the mayor said. “Most of your standard garbage cans are like 32 gallons, and this is like three times that. These are all on wheels, and everything is automated. The garbage truck will pull up, the levers will come out, pick it up, dump it into the back of the truck.

“It’s just going to be tremendous, and there’s no charge to the customers,” McCauley added. “[The cost] is undertaken by the Waste Collection Board.”

Councilwoman Mary Albaugh, a member of the city’s Waste Collection Board, asked the mayor to discuss a few of the primary reasons the city is adopting the new toter system.

“Mayor, you might want to mention the reason for this is because of the personal injuries to our employees,” Albaugh said.

McCauley said putting a lid on personal injuries was one reason for implementing the new trash collection system, but also added that it will enable the city to better track whose trash is whose.

“That’s one reason,” McCauley said. “The other reason is it’s an efficiency kind of thing. We know that there are customers who have been flying under the radar and not being held accountable for their garbage. Now, we will be able to connect every resident with a specific bar code, and we know that we’re going to be picking up their garbage.”

Councilman CJ Rylands raised several logistical concerns, including questions about where downtown businesses and apartment dwellers will store their toters when they’re not in use, and also whether there will be enough room for the toters to be placed on Main Street Tuesday night until the waste department picks up garbage Wednesday morning.

In reply, McCauley asked, “Wouldn’t you rather see a lovely standardized container with a uniform city seal on each container? (Public works director) Jerry Arnold has been working on this for three years, and I think he and Jeff Wamsley have so thoroughly thought this out that they’ve considered every conceivable contingency, and there will be some new ones coming up.”

Councilman David Thomas said there have been instances in which city employees have punctured their hands with glass, needles or other sharp objects when lifting trash onto trucks.

On Monday, public works director Jerry Arnold, who missed Thursday’s meeting, fielded a few questions about the new toter system, saying the city plans on rolling the system out in town first.

“My plan of attack is dealing with the customers in the city limits first, and then this summer, we will start delivering them out into the county,” Arnold said, adding that a total of 6,000 toters had been ordered.

“It will make identification much easier in the county,” he said. “In some instances, there are two or three houses on the same driveway, and they set their garbage on the end of the driveway, and it can be hard to identify whose is whose.”

Arnold noted the waste department will be distributing the toters on a case-by-case basis in some instances.

For example, there’s a possibility that not every waste customer living in a downtown apartment will have an individual toter.

In addition, people who live in apartment buildings or group housing with dumpsters will likely not have toters.

“Anyone who’s already set up with a dumpster, we’re not going to reinvent the system with them,” Arnold said. “With some of the apartments on Main Street, it’s hard because there’s nowhere to store it. I can see some instances where it’s just not practical, but everywhere we can use them, we will.”

Arnold said the automated system, which involves levers lifting up the toter and dumping its contents into garbage trucks, won’t result in job loss.

But it will reduce expenses for the city.

“We’ll still maintain the same amount of employees, but this will lessen the amount of workers’ compensation claims we have to pay because our workers will be less likely to get injured,” Arnold said. “As we go to an area, we will see where we can use them and where we can’t. From the beginning with this system, one of the goals we’ve had is to get that garbage off Main Street and make it look more appealing.”

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