|Windham's refuse contract with Pine Tree Waste, Inc., also
known as Casella Waste, expires next year and the company
wants the town to convert to an automated trash collection
system in a new contract. COURTESY PHOTO
One man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, but in
renegotiating Windham’s refuse contract, haste doesn’t necessarily mean waste.
During the Feb. 22 Windham Town Council meeting, Windham’s Assistant Town Manager Bob Burns briefed councilors about the renewal status of the town’s Solid Waste and Recyclable Collection Program contract and changes ahead that are needed to be made.
In February 2020, the town entered a three-year contract starting
in July 2020 that runs through the end of June 2023 with Pine Tree Waste, Inc.
also known as Casella Waste.
According to Burns, that contract was for solid waste and recyclable collection and services at an estimated 5,400 individual stops in the town. Under this system, trash and recyclables are manually collected at the roadside which requires a driver and a laborer.
Burns told councilors that the total annual cost of this
contract is $677,250 for this year and $711,113 for the final year.
He told councilors that labor shortages have plagued Casella and
driven operational costs upward and they feel this is their only option looking
forward in our Maine region. Burns said Gorham and Gray are two communities
that continue to use manual collection like Windham, but that Westbrook and
Scarborough have converted to an automated collection.
“At our last bid Casella participated, and this collection
market has not seen any signs of increased competition since then,” Burns said.
“It is unlikely that another bid process will gather any bidders for our
current manual collection style program.”
During Windham’s 2020 contract negotiation, Casella Waste proposed
an automated collection program for the town for a 10-year contractual period
with Year 1 quoted at $695,000 and ending at a cost of $1,078 million in year
“This 10-year period gives the contractor assurance that the
specialized equipment they would purchase could be paid for over time,” Burns
said. “Additional costs to the town would include the purchase price of the
“I have asked our Town Attorney Kristin Collins, to determine if we can legally renegotiate our existing contract with Casella Waste at this time and avoid the requirement of having to go back out to competitive bid as it is unlikely that a competitive bid will produce costs any different than a direct negotiation due to a complete lack of competition in this market sector in our area,” Burns said.
But in converting to an automated trash collection system and
away from a manual operator attendant system, this also means the end of
Windham’s current Pay As You Throw (PAYT) trash bag program where users
purchase bags to be picked up by refuse collectors. Windham collected $763,000
in revenue from that system alone in 2021, a record high that Burns attributed
to the pandemic.
Not having the PAYT system would mean losing that revenue and
increased tipping fees incurred by the town for EcoMaine as residents place
improperly bagged waste items in carts that is picked up when the trash truck operator
is unable to see what is in the cart below the top.
Burns said that moving ahead with an automated program in
Windham will require effort and manpower to ensure that abuse to the system is
limited. He acknowledged that the loss of a PAYT system discourages recycling.
Because Windham has many smaller roads and camp roads, Burns
said Casella Waste has indicated that they would likely purchase several
special smaller sized automated collection trucks just to service smaller and
camp roads in Windham.
“Specific areas may have to be determined on these roads for
cart placement to avoid narrowing the roads too much,” Burns said.
During a discussion among councilors, Windham Town Manager
Barry Tibbetts suggested that a bond issue can be done which would build the
cost of refuse collection into any new contract.
“We need to do some real homework on this and to lay out our
different options for you,” Tibbetts said.
Burns said that the town is aiming to come up with the framework
of an agreement with Casella by April so that would give them ample time to
purchase any necessary equipment they would need for conversion to an automated
Any new contract with Casella would have to be approved by members of the Windham Town Council. <