IM eyes going to automated garbage pickup

IRON MOUNTAIN — Automated side-load trash collection could be in Iron Mountain’s future after the city council agreed Tuesday to pursue the change.

The plan is to provide each household with a 95-gallon wheeled cart. All collections would be moved from the alleys to the street, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said.

“The next step would be to create a fact sheet for residents to review and provide their input,” he told the council. “It should be a much cleaner method of collection.”

Many other communities have switched to automation and the council showed little hesitation in giving it a look. If there are no hiccups, the change could come as soon as this fall.

An important factor is “saving the wear and tear on those alleys,” council member Nathan Zemar said. The city now switches to curbside collection in the spring due to the weight of the trucks.

The proposal for automation comes from GFL Environmental USA, a North American firm that took over trash collection in Iron Mountain when it acquired Great American Environmental Services of Kingsford last October. The change comes with no increased cost to the final years of the existing contract, which runs through Sept. 14, 2024.

Also, the contract would be extended three years, through Sept. 14, 2027, with a consumer price index increase of 4% annually. The only additional charge would be if a resident needs an extra cart, which would have a price of $1.50 per cart per month.

In the city of Kenosha, Wis., which switched to automated collection two years ago, it was explained “carts are maneuverable and easy to roll.” They hold as much as three typical garbage cans.

Garbage trucks are equipped with a lifting device on the curbside. The operator is able to control the lifting, emptying and return of a cart without ever leaving the cab.

Iron Mountain might have some unique issues, but automation should be an overall improvement, council member Ken Clawson said, adding, “we’re not reinventing the wheel here.”

The city began contracting with Great American for garbage collection in 2004. Before that, it had its own vehicles and staff to provide the service.

Stanchina said a switch to automation would also make it easier for the city to offer curbside recycling, should it ever decide to do that.

In other action, the council:

— Welcomed news that the 2023 fiscal year budget approved Friday by the Legislature and sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer includes $750 million to support municipal pensions. An initial review shows the city’s Municipal Employees Retirement System of Michigan plan — which is about 38% funded — stands to receive a boost of nearly $3 million to bring it up to 60% funded, Stanchina said.

— Voted 5-1 to submit ballot language for the Nov. 8 general election that seeks a change in the city charter raising council pay to $30 per meeting, with a maximum of $1,500 per year. The current compensation of $10 per meeting and a maximum of $500 per year has been in place since 1985. Clawson voted no and Pam Maule was absent. The language will now go to the state attorney general’s office for review.

— Voted 6-0 to approve minor changes recommended by the attorney general’s office for Nov. 8 ballot language seeking to amend the charter to end civil service exams for entry-level positions in the police, fire and public works departments. Once the ballot language is cleared, the city will offer a fact sheet for voters. The change is meant to give the city greater flexibility in hiring the most qualified — and available — candidate at the entry level.


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