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Solar-powered trash compactor bins to hit downtown Spokane streets

A solar powered garbage can sits on the corner of Spokane Falls and Post St. near Spokane City Hall, shown Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
A solar powered garbage can sits on the corner of Spokane Falls and Post St. near Spokane City Hall, shown Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane’s famous pneumatic, garbage-munching goat is about to have some company in the field of technologically advanced garbage disposal downtown.

Roughly 40 solar-powered trash bins are coming to the city’s streets in the coming weeks, capable of compacting refuse and collecting recycling. The move will free up members of the Downtown Spokane Partnership’s cleaning crews to address graffiti, sidewalk trash and areas beneath the downtown’s railroad viaducts, rather than collecting bags from the cans currently scattered throughout town, said Mark Richard, president of the partnership.

“It’ll save us person hours, or man hours,” Richard said. “It won’t be putting cash in our hands.”

The city will lease the bins, manufactured by the firm Bigbelly based in Massachusetts. Software alerts the city when the bins are in need of collection, and they don’t topple over in the wind, said Marlene Feist, director of strategic development for the public works and utilities department.

“Solid waste crews will pack those up, and take them to the Waste-to-Energy Plant,” she said. “(The Downtown Spokane Partnership) had been running around with golf carts and picking it up.”

The city has agreed to pay an initial start-up cost of about $10,000, and then $70,000 annually to lease the Bigbelly bins, which will come out of the city’s general fund. Spokane already installed one of receptacles, which uses solar energy to power an internal compactor, outside City Hall, at Post Street and Spokane Falls Boulevard.

City Councilman Breean Beggs said awarding of the contract initially was put on hold so that the Downtown Spokane Partnership could put in writing what additional duties the four members of its street cleaning crew could tackle as a result of the new automated cans.

“They’ll keep the same number of employees, and we agreed they’d take over cleaning under the railway viaducts,” Beggs said.

The partnership agreed last year to begin picking up trash beneath the railroad trestles, Richard said. Inmate crews from the Geiger Corrections Center also have been enlisted to clean the areas, which are frequently the site of homeless encampments. Freeing up the street crew from collecting bags will give them more time to scrub graffiti on building walls, clear storm drains and potentially use new equipment to wash sidewalks, he added.

“This will give us a chance to breathe a little bit and do a better job in our railroad underpasses,” Richard said.

The Downtown Spokane Partnership’s services are funded through a $100,000 annual contract with the city as well as assessments that are collected from property owners within the boundaries of downtown.

The new bins will expand the availability of recycling services downtown, something business owners have requested, said Richard.

The Spokane City Council unanimously approved leasing the bins in a vote Monday afternoon.


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