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City Extends Trash Hauler's Contract; Will Explore Providing Its Own Service

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
December 20, 2017
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

McKeesport City Council has extended its contract with Big's Sanitation through the end of 2018.

But Mayor Michael Cherepko said that his administration is exploring whether the city should purchase its own trash trucks and perform the work with its own employees.

"We've talked about it before, and I think we will finally be in a position to do that in 2019," he said.

McKeesport has used private contractors for trash collection since at least the early 1980s. Big's, located in Rostraver Twp., Westmoreland County, has been collecting the city's trash and recycling since January 2015, and also holds refuse collection contracts in neighboring Port Vue, White Oak and North Versailles Twp.

Some other nearby communities, including West Mifflin and Munhall, operate their own trash trucks. Swissvale used private trash collection companies for several years but in 2016 began operating its own sanitation department again.

But trash collection has been a surprisingly controversial issue in McKeesport, especially after the city's garbage collection went $170,000 over budget in 2010.

Former City Controller Raymond Malinchak accused McKeesport's previous waste hauler of inflating its garbage collection or mixing other communities' trash with McKeesport and hired a private investigator to tail their trucks. The results of the investigation were never made public.

The city collects a quarterly "municipal service fee" of $75 per household, or $60 for senior citizens, to pay for trash collection.

This year, McKeesport officials made a renewed effort to encourage recycling and through the help of a $216,934 grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection, purchased 4,000 new recycling bins for residents.

"Every recycled item reduces the amount of trash hauled to the landfill by our provider," Cherepko said at council's December meeting. "That reduction reduces our landfill deposit costs and allows us to be an environmentally responsible community."

He called recycling an area where "every resident can pull together to reduce a huge expense" for the city.

McKeesport had an option to extend the contract with Big's for a third year, or could have exited the agreement and advertised for new bids. Cherepko said he asked council to exercise the option instead of opening a new agreement with Big's or another hauler.

In the event that McKeesport does begin its own trash collection again in 2019, "I didn't want to handcuff us to an extended contract," he said.

The city's goal would be to use existing public works employees whenever possible and "hiring very few" new employees, Cherepko said. McKeesport officials have to work out options with landfills and recycling providers before going any further, he said.

In other business, McKeesport City Council by 7-0 vote agreed to extend its contract with Dravosburg to provide police patrols and protection through 2023.

McKeesport police began patrolling Dravosburg in 2006. "It's been a commitment of ours to provide them with the best service we possibly can," Cherepko said.

City officials would like to share services with other neighboring municipalities whenever practical, he said.

"As long as I'm mayor, we are not interested in going in and stepping on anyone's toes," Cherepko said. "But if anyone's interested, we are willing to explore it."

Originally published December 20, 2017.

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