City Councilor Mike Farley, also a lawyer, abstained from the vote because he represents Waste Management as a client.
City Councilor Kate Leonard expressed reservations about the new contract because many Newporters are happy with the existing service and won't be so happy when they find out they'll need to buy a sticker to get bulky waste removed — a provision under the new contract. That includes getting rid of a small chair or table for a fee of $20.
"In the end, you can find things sitting on the street and that's where they'll end up if people don't want to pay the fee," Leonard said.
Another concern raised before the vote was the size of the bins, which have double the capacity of the standard 32-gallon trash barrel most people visualize and can be cumbersome, especially for the city's elderly.
"We need a viable option for people who want smaller bins," said City Councilor Marco T. Camacho, noting a resident can purchase a smaller bin after the initial citywide distribution of new bins later this year — for a fee.
But William R. Riccio, Director of Public Services, said there will be residents who have personal assistance and in some situations, people can get a 32-gallon bin. But to keep things simple and avoid future problems, distributing 64-gallon bins to everyone keeps things standard and uniform "across the board."
Riccio explained that every house is assigned a bin and the bin stays with the house. There could be a propensity of problems down the road if a house is sold and the new owners find they'd rather have a 64 gallon instead of a 32 gallon one, he said. The concern is by "putting the option out there," things could get not-so-uniform fairly fast.
Waste Management — the sole bidder to respond to the city's request for proposals — will provide on-street litter barrel collection service that will bring 45 new solar powered trash and recycling stations to the city.
Yard waste collection and roll-off and dumpster on-call service for schools and city buildings would remain unchanged.
The contract is estimated to cost the city $1.7 million per year in year one, not including the $958,000 for the carts in the first year.
According to figures released by the city earlier this year, the total cost for the contract over the five year term would be about $6.7 million.
Advocates for cart-based collection tout the bins' effectiveness at keeping rodents at bay thanks to attached lids that simultaneously prevent litter caused by wind and scavengers.
Underlying any new initiative is a desire on the part of city officials to boost recycling rates. Cities and towns across Rhode Island are trying to meet the 35 percent recycling rate goal set by the state. The idea is to not only increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of trash that ends up in the Central Landfill in Johnston, but also to save money. The higher the city’s recycling rate, the lower the tipping fee, or rate that a community pays to dispose of trash.
Last year, the city had a recycling rate of 23.5 percent – the highest it ever seen, but that’s far from the 35 percent goal – and well below the 25- to 29 percent it must meet to start getting incentive discounts on the tipping rate.The contract is part of a combined service bid between the city and the town of Middletown but no bidder responded to the combined bid proposal, Howington said. As a result, Newport negotiated the terms of the contract with Waste Management individually.
The contract will run from July 1 of this year to June 30 of 2019.
The rollout of the carts and new pay-as-you-throw sticker system for bulky waste will be gradual to allow Waste Management time to buy equipment and reorganize its services. It also gives the city time for community outreach and education.