McKeesport will begin picking up its own trash again in 2020.
City council on Wednesday unanimously approved a $1.24 million, five-year, lease-purchase agreement with A&H Equipment of Hempfield Twp., Westmoreland County, for six vehicles --- three large trucks, two smaller trucks, and one truck equipped to handle large roll-off dumpsters.
Although called a "lease," McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said the city will own the vehicles outright at the end of 2024. All of the vehicles will be built new, to the city's specifications, he said.
McKeesport once used its own employees to collect refuse, but has been contracting with private haulers since 1982. Cherepko and other city officials have been talking about bringing the service back in-house since 2017.
"This is something I have spent hundreds of hours thinking about," Cherepko said Wednesday. "One of the largest expenses we have in the city is garbage collection, and I think it’s time that we take a chance and go into the garbage business for 2020."
McKeesport budgeted $1.4 million for trash collection in 2019 and at the end of 2018 extended by one year its contract for trash collection with Big's Sanitation of Rostraver Twp., Westmoreland County.
Cherepko said that "without question (McKeesport) can save money" by doing its own trash collection.
Beginning in 2020, payments on the trash collection vehicles will amount to $282,664, according to bid documents. Cherepko estimated that landfill fees will cost the city another $300,000 to $400,000.
The city will use existing public works employees to drive the trucks and hire a number of people as lower-paid "throwers" to toss the trash into the trucks, Cherepko said.
"At this point, we have to give it a shot," he said. "I think we will save money in the future."
City officials also are hoping they can reduce complaints from residents about the service provided by third-party trash collection companies, Cherepko said.
"I think we can provide a better service," he said. "When complaints come in, we will address those complaints immediately."
Cherepko said he would not rule out offering trash collection to neighboring municipalities, but added he has had no discussions yet with any other elected officials.
"I don’t ever rule out the possibility of shared services," he said. "With everyone now talking about regionalization I think garbage collection could be something (regionalized) down the road."
Beginning July 1, city employees likely will take over McKeesport's every-other-week recycling collection as a way of preparing for doing the refuse collection jobs, Cherepko said.
"I think it would be a good way for us to get our feet wet," he said.
Jason Togyer is the editor of Tube City Almanac and the volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published February 07, 2019.