City looks to bale out of shipping its trash in open-top containers

The borough assembly will consider the purchase of a trash baler so that it can stop shipping the community's garbage out of town in open-top containers.

The purchase, estimated at $600,000, will be on the agenda for the April 13 assembly meeting, Borough Manager Lisa Von Bargen said Tuesday.

A baler would cut and mash and compress the trash into dense blocks, about 50 cubic feet in size, based on the model the city is considering.

The baler project has been ongoing for some time, but the need recently accelerated, Von Bargen said.

Wrangell contracts with Republic Services for its trash disposal, and the city's solid waste is barged out of town by Alaska Marine Lines. About three years ago, Von Bargen said, AML told the city it would stop hauling loose trash in open-top containers, which presented a fire risk.

At the time, Von Bargen said, it looked like the city would have until the end of its contract with Republic Services to purchase a waste baler, about five years. However, the timeline shortened up, she said.

"Part of that is because there were additional fires on board the AML barges,"she said. "In fact, we had the first-ever fire in a Wrangell container this winter. It had thankfully been taken off the barge in Ketchikan and was sitting on the shore, but we had a fire in one of our containers for the first time."

Instead of five years, Von Bargen said the switch to baling up the trash is coming at around the four-year mark. The city needed to have a trash baler by June 1, but she said AML is not being too strict on the deadline.

"Last year they gave a deadline that they had to have trash being shipped baled by June 1,"she said. "They have indicated to us that as long as we're showing significant forward progress they will work with us. So we have to continue to move forward."

The city is considering the purchase of a Harris Badger baler, which Von Bargen said is the same kind used in Ketchikan and Petersburg, at an estimated cost of $600,000. There is not enough money in the city's solid waste fund alone, she said, so she is going to ask the assembly to consider taking the money out of the sales tax fund, from the "health, sanitation, and education"section of the fund.


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