Board hears private trash service plan

NASHUA – Privatization of the solid waste collection and disposal systems could save the city $124 million over 20 years, representatives of a private waste management firm told the Board of Public Works on Monday night.

During a presentation at City Hall, Ted Neura of Allied Waste, which is owned by BFI Corp. and has an operation in Tyngsborough, Mass., said BFI would like to take over the Four Hills Landfill on West Hollis Street, probably through a purchase or long-term leasing agreement.

The company would then run the facility for the city, pick up all residential trash and recyclables and import trash to generate revenue, Neura said. This would enable the city to eliminate a $4.5 million deficit the landfill is running at now while receiving $12 a ton in royalties from trash that is hauled in from outside communities, he said.

The royalties would be expected to generate $46 million over the next two decades, allowing the city to pay back long-term loans to the state, and erase operating deficits projected over the next several years, Neura said. Moreover, if BFI was able to gain state approval to expand the landfill, the city would receive a $2 million fee on top of another $2 million “transition fee’’ that would come when the dump is turned over to BFI, he said.

Even if the landfill wasn’t expanded, he said, the city could expect to save $68 million over 20 years.

“Essentially what we’re saying is we can provide the same services you are receiving now and increase revenues by bringing in garbage from other locations,’’ Neura said.

The board said it would need more time to absorb the information presented Monday.“There’s a lot of meat to digest here,’’ Commissioner Jim Hall said.

But three aldermen who listened to the presentation said they were intrigued by what they heard.

The Board of Aldermen would have the final say on any privatization plan.

Neura and Stan Walczak of BFI said they were not criticizing how the solid waste division is run now.

“The program is a good program and we don’t want to slander it,’’ Neura said.

But he said BFI has 570 employees in this region, 17,000 commercial customers and serves 870,000 residential customers, mostly through municipal contracts. Allied Waste has $5 billion in assets, owns 165 landfills, 165 waste transfer stations and 57 recycling centers, he said.

And, privatization wouldn’t necessarily mean city workers would lose their jobs, Neura said.

“We’d make a commitment to retain city workers as long as they could meet our hiring requirements,” he said.

Alderman-at-Large David Deane said the solid waste division has already asked for a $1.5 million increase in its budget to help offset the landfill operating deficit.

“This proposal is hard not to explore,’’ Ward 6 Alderman Bob Dion said.

“The numbers are staggering and I’d like to think technology is going to improve over time,” Ward 5 Alderman David Lozeau said.

“If we can put somebody on the moon we should he able to get rid of our trash more efficiently.’’