Board decides to end contract with trash firm

MERRIMACK – We don’t care after all, selectmen decided Thursday.

The Board of Selectmen voted 4-0 to terminate a contract with WeCare LLC, a New York company hired last year to haul trash from the town’s solid waste transfer station to a waste-processing plant in Rochester, N.H.

Selectman David McCray was absent from the meeting.

Instead, the town will hire an additional worker and do the work. That will mean a savings to taxpayers of at least $200,000 a year, and perhaps as much as $275,000 to $300,000 a year, town officials said.

The length of the contract was three to five years, with an option for the town to extend it an additional three years.

“I believe we can do the service better and cheaper,” said Public Works Director Ed Chase, who said the change should be completed by the end of December.

Selectmen followed Chase’s recommendation that the board terminate the existing WeCare contract, make an offer to the company to purchase equipment needed for the town to load and haul municipal waste at the transfer station, and upgrade a job description and hire a new worker.

Built into the contract that the town signed with WeCare last year was a clause that the town could opt out as long as the town made an offer to buy the company’s equipment used at the transfer station at fair market cost, Chase said.

That equipment is now being appraised, he said. It includes a road tractor and 100-cubic-yard transfer trailer, two loaders with attachments and a used yard tractor, all at a total cost of around $500,000, he said.

If WeCare and the town can’t agree on a price, the town could go out to bid to buy the equipment new, Chase said. The advantage would be the town could buy better, newer equipment that would last longer, he said.

The approximately $300,000 a year that the town will save comes from two areas, Chase noted.

One is in the money the town paid WeCare for handling the solid waste. At a base cost of about $243,000, with a small percentage increase for inflation added each year, the average amount of that contract would be $258,721 a year.

With the contract terminated, none of that would have to be paid, Chase said.

The second savings will be from what the town would have paid WeCare for hauling the waste, at a cost of $15 a ton. With an estimated 10,000 tons of trash a year, that amount comes to $150,000 a year, Chase said.

However, the savings would be less than that, possibly $75,000 to $100,000, he said. That’s because hiring an additional town worker and operational costs for equipment, such as tires, fuel and vehicle wear and tear, would be deducted from that savings, he said.

Under WeCare, eight workers handled and hauled waste from the transfer station, where residents either dropped off their household trash or paid a private company to collect the trash each week and take it to the transfer station. Two of the workers were WeCare employees, and the other six were town Public Works employees.

With the town undertaking the work, seven town employees will be needed. The waste could be managed with one fewer worker because the operation would be more efficient, Chase said.

The new transfer station opened at the Lawrence Road landfill site Jan. 1, after the town landfill closed. Waste collected there is transported to the Turnkey Recycling and Environmental Services in Rochester.

Selectmen last year anticipated that at least 12,000 tons would be collected at the transfer station each year. However, in the nine months since the station opened, only 7,568 tons of residential and commercial waste have been received, in large part because commercial haulers found it cheaper to take the trash to facilities outside of town.

Board members said with the change in how the town disposes of solid waste, there were a lot of unknowns, including how many tons of waste would be handled at the transfer station, and whether it would be cheaper for the town to contract out the handling and hauling service or do the job itself.

Selectman Carolyn Whitlock thanked residents who use the transfer station for their patience over the past year while town officials were getting their feet wet.

“The whole learning process went a lot faster than I expected it to,” she said.