Bedford Select Board Sticking with Current Trash Contractor

April 14, 2023
trash truck
Republic Services will continue to serve Bedford solid waste and recycling collection needs. Courtesy Image Republic Services

How much is improved customer service for trash removal and recycling worth?

As far as the Bedford Select Board is concerned, $900,000 over five years is too much – that is the differential between the Waste Management bid of $10.2 million against a bid of $9.3 million from the existing contractor, Republic Services. 

After much discussion, the board on Monday unanimously voted to pursue contract renewal with Republic Services for solid waste collection and recycling. The board also considered a proposal from Waste Management. There were five other bids, but none was close enough to the town’s criteria.

According to Wikipedia, Republic Services “is the second largest provider of waste disposal in the United States after Waste Management Corp.”

“The biggest question is: are we happy with the level of customer service?” said Town Manager Sarah Stanton. “Do we want to pay more money for better customer service?”

Stanton said the biggest change would be frequency. Waste Management wants to subdivide the town and collect solid waste and recyclables every weekday. Republic now services the entire town on Mondays. There would be no net change in trucks – the current 10 on Mondays versus two each weekday. 

Stanton said complaints include lack of response to missed pickups. “There are customer service problems with all trash haulers,” said board member Margot Fleischman. “Do you have any sense of confidence that customer service will improve?” Public Works Director David Manugian replied, “We sat down with them. I think they understand that’s a concern for us.”

The DPW’s refuse and recycling administrator Liz Antanavica said software used for tracking missed pickups has been upgraded. “Resident feedback we have is somewhat limited,” she acknowledged. “When the trash gets picked up, I hear from almost no one.” 

Board Chair Bopha Malone pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic “impacted service everywhere. Everyone is short staffed.” Manugian concurred: “I think Covid absolutely played a part.” He added that Republic Services’ call center is now national instead of through its branch in Tyngsborough, “and that has created challenges. We have great relations with the folks in Tyngsborough, and they listen to our recommendations to broaden our options and work with us.”

“That’s the root of the problem: there’s a major disconnect between the national call center and the local operation,” Antanavica said. The new software “is going to be a great step in the right direction.”

Member Paul Mortenson said, “It would have to be a fantastic bump in customer service to be worth the extra money.” He did express interest in a suggestion from resident Robert Kalantari that recycling collection could change to biweekly. Antanavica said that schedule change wasn’t part of the bid request. But Manugian doubted that changing the frequency would have much impact on cost, since trucks are committed to Bedford on Mondays and “it’s not like they’re going to be going somewhere else.”

“The actual customer service people are great. It’s just getting to them,” said member Emily Mitchell. “It is a big increase. But better customer service is a big deal.”

Board members also discussed the possibility of curbside collection of composted food waste. But the consensus was that for now it’s too expensive. “It’s not for lack of interest for curbside composting, but the cost is prohibitive,” said Stanton. “We couldn’t recommend moving forward.”

In answer to a question from member Shawn Hanegan, Antanavica said the savings realized by diverting organics from the waste stream wouldn’t come close to offsetting the additional curbside collection cost. “Reallocating our financial resources away from weekly recycling might open up some opportunities for townwide composting,” Fleischman offered. “We have to get the organics out of the waste stream.” 

“How would we get to a place where composting would make sense? Absent state mandate, what steps would we need,” Fleischman wondered. Manugian noted that there are about 350 households that have individual pickup arrangements with Black Earth composting. “I think that’s a culture change over many years,” perhaps beginning with educating schoolchildren, he said.

Mitchell reminded the board that the number surpasses 350 because there are households that utilize backyard composting bins.

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April 14, 2023 4:47 pm

There are very clear reasons all over town on trash day whey Republic Services is cheaper.

Of all the things the town should save money on, trash not being picked up or falling off the trucks is not one of them.

Last edited 1 year ago by Criatura

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