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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Council Oks Spending $465,217 On Trash Carts 10,000 Special Bins First Step Toward Automating City Garbage Pickup

It’s top of the line with a streamlined lid, reinforced bottom and easy-roll tires.

One might even call it the Cadillac of garbage carts.

That’s exactly what two City Council members labeled the 10,000 specially designed carts soon to be rolling into selected Spokane neighborhoods.

“I’m just not sure we need a Cadillac when a Chevrolet will do,” Councilman Joel Crosby said of the council’s decision Monday to spend $465,217 on the carts which will start Spokane on the road to automated garbage collection.

The council voted 5-2 to buy the carts, with Councilman Chris Anderson joining Crosby in criticizing the cost.

Five companies bid to supply the carts, and the Solid Waste Department selected the most expensive choice, averaging $42.99 a cart. The carts ranged in cost from $38.40 to $42.99.

Director Dennis Hein said the selection was based on observing what went wrong with other carts. Handles came off, hinges broke, bottoms fell apart and sides split.

Otto Industries, which makes the chosen cart, studied other companies’ failures and avoided them, Hein said. The cart has at least a 20-year life span and comes in four sizes. All are compatible with the city’s three automated trucks.

“I don’t believe it’s a Cadillac,” Hein said. “It’s a second-generation cart.”

The city will supply each household in the selected neighborhoods with the first cart. If that cart is stolen, homeowners will be charged for a replacement.

Last fall, the city bought three specially designed garbage trucks for $145,000 apiece. Each has an arm that picks up the cart and dumps the contents into the truck.

In about two months, Hein plans to begin using the automated system for 10 collection routes - five on the South Side and five on the North Side. Those routes will be announced later this month.

The entire city could be automated within five years, Hein said.

The specialized truck makes it possible for one worker to collect trash from 800 to 900 homes a day. Currently, two people collect garbage from 500 to 600 homes a day.

Throughout the city, about 50 people collect garbage from 60,000 Spokane households. The new system will cut about 20 workers from the collection staff, Hein said, but no one will be laid off. Reductions will occur through attrition or transfers to other departments.

Several people criticized the city’s plan to cut back on manual labor positions.

Frank Kottke, a retired economics professor, said the city is spending a “substantial amount of money to eliminate jobs of this sort.”

While there might be salary savings, there will be ultimate societal costs, Kottke said. “These costs … will eventually fall on the citizens.”

In other business, the council:

Approved a plan to raise various fees the Fire Department charges for permits and inspections.

The increases, part of the recently approved 1995 budget, would add about $91,000 to the city’s general fund.

Fees vary according to type. For example, a permit for an underground storage tank that once cost $30 now costs $60. A permit to operate an auto-repair business goes from $50 to $65.

Fire Marshal Garry Miller said the new fee schedule more closely reflects inspection costs, such as the hourly rate of the inspector and clerical worker.

Took a beating from residents critical of a plan to spend at least $6,000 on a retreat to set goals for 1995.

The council last week directed City Manager Roger Crum to hire an out-of-town consultant to “facilitate” a weekend retreat at the Airport Ramada Inn.

William Mathis of Napa, Calif., plans to charge the city $6,000 to $7,000 to help the council decide what it wants to do this year. He will meet separately with council members this week and come back next weekend for the Jan. 20-21 retreat.

Councilwoman Phyllis Holmes, who heads the retreat committee, defended the plan, saying Mathis specializes in city and county issues and comes highly recommended.

“We’re looking for a quality start with a quality facilitator so that for the rest of the year we’ll do meaningful work,” she said.

Sandy Smith, an outspoken critic of city spending, said “I can’t believe we don’t have someone available here at the city who could do this.”

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