By JOHN HOWELL With seven sanitation trucks out of commission and two to three months before the delivery of two new trucks, Mayor Frank Picozzi is faced with one of the biggest challenges of his administration - how to maintain weekly collections of
With seven sanitation trucks out of commission and two to three months before the delivery of two new trucks, Mayor Frank Picozzi is faced with one of the biggest challenges of his administration – how to maintain weekly collections of trash and recyclables for the foreseeable future.
Picozzi didn’t attempt to gloss over the problem Monday.
Asked how he was doing, he bluntly replied “horrible.”
Under ideal conditions, all 15 collection trucks would be operable. On a daily basis, seven pick up trash while another seven collect recyclables. The 15th truck is a spare in the event of a breakdown.
But now the city’s aging fleet is breaking down, and getting new trucks is not only expensive – about $265,000 a truck – but also a lengthy process. The city is lucky to have found two trucks that are expected to be delivered before the end of the calendar year. The trucks would usually take up to 18 months for delivery.
Picozzi lays the blame for the condition of the fleet squarely on the City Council for adopting a practice during the prior administration of buying used vehicles with the expectation of saving money instead of maintaining a schedule of routine replacements. Under the current budget, the council approved a lease-purchase plan to systematically update municipal vehicles from fire apparatus to police cruisers and Department of Public Works vehicles and equipment. The Fire Department, which is also faced with a long lead time on the delivery of vehicles, is filling gaps in its fleet with loans from other departments under its mutual aid agreements.
But it doesn’t work that way for sanitation trucks, in large part because most municipalities contract for sanitation services.
Picozzi said the possibility of renting trucks from private contractors and having the Warwick driver of a downed route accompany their driver was explored. While increasing costs, the suggestion made sense until the private contractors said they couldn’t spare the trucks or the drivers.
The mayor said various options were considered and then ruled impractical, from every-other-week collection of recyclables to having residents place bins on one side of the road so as to reduce drive time. Picozzi envisioned neighborhood arguments even if the bins were placed on one side one week and the other the next week.
Although not a perfect answer, the city gained Department of Environment Management approval for recyclables transfer station at the compost station off Sandy Lane. Recyclable bins are being made available to residents who can’t wait for a pickup and want to make a drop-off, Picozzi said Wednesday.
Now a truck with recyclables can dump the load at the station rather than driving to Rhode Island Resource Recovery in Johnston. This gives drivers more time to make pickups and extends operations beyond the 3 p.m. closure at Resource Recovery. The city then hauls recyclables to Johnston or contracts for it to be done.
Picozzi said Wednesday he expects recyclable collections will be on schedule next week. Trash collections remain the priority. Those trucks are required to drive to the state landfill.