City approves funding for trash baler

Wrangell is getting a machine to cut, mash and bundle up its trash into compact bales for the ride out of town.

The borough assembly on April 13 approved spending more than $600,000 to buy and install a solid waste baler so that the garbage will no longer head south as loose trash, which presents a fire risk.

Public Works Director Tom Wetor told the assembly that Republic Services, which collects trash for Wrangell, reported in 2018 that the city had until 2023 to begin shipping its trash in closed containers. Alaska Marine Lines, which barges waste off the island, planned to stop shipping trash in open containers to avoid the fire risk.

However, Wetor said, after recent trash fires, AML moved the timeline forward. Wrangell now has until June to start baling its trash.

Borough Manager Lisa Von Bargen said AML is flexible on the deadline as long as the city shows progress on the project.

The budget for the baler project is $623,873. Of that, a little over $500,000 will be used for the purchase of a Harris Badger baler, forklift, a mobile loading ramp and other equipment. The Harris baler is similar to the trash balers used in Petersburg and Ketchikan. The remaining funding will be used for engineering services, equipment rental for offloading the baler in Wrangell, and modifications to install the unit at the city's sanitation building.

The city needs to upgrade the electrical service to the building to accommodate the 50-horsepower motor that powers the baler.

Other renovations include installation of a platform scale for weighing trash bales, upgrades to the vehicle scale, a steel grid to reinforce the building's flooring, and expansion of the roadway to the sanitation building, Wetor said.

Best case, Wrangell could start bailing its trash by Sept. 1, he said. Worst case it would be around Nov. 1. It just depends how quickly the manufacturer can build and ship the baler.

"Once we pull the trigger on a baler it takes about three months to build," Wetor said. "It takes probably closer to two weeks to ship up here, and while all of this is going on we'll be needing to do the facility modifications or additions. ... Once here in town installation will take us close to a week."


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