OCEAN CITY — Resort officials on Tuesday approved a complicated deal to create a hybrid, state-of-the-art trash collection truck called a “game changer” for how Ocean City collects the mountains of trash each night from the iconic blue barrels on the beach.
Last year, the Mayor and Council approved the purchase of a beach trash collection truck budgeted at $235,000, but when the bids were solicited, the lowest bid came in at around $298,000, or about $63,000 over the estimate. However, Public Works Director Hal Adkins, with assistance from Procurement Manager Catrice Parsons and Budget Manager Jenny Knapp, have come up with a plan to convert a heavy-duty, four-wheel drive truck the town took delivery of last week into a new state-of-the-art trash collection truck that could be able to empty all of the blue trash barrels on the beach practically in one fell swoop each night.
The total cost of the truck and the necessary conversions, including a massive compactor mounted on the back, will come in at around $298,000, or $63,000 more than what was budgeted, but the town realized a windfall of around $54,000 from the sale of another truck that has outlived its usefulness on the Internet site govdeals.com, which will offset the cost of the new trash collector, leaving a difference of around $9,000 to be covered by the town.
“This is a game-changer for how we operate on the beach,” Adkins said. “I am extremely optimistic that it’s going to create the next level of efficiency for us. Based on the size of this vehicle, I am optimistic that we will try to do at least three quarters of the entire length of the island before it fills up. My goal is to doo the whole island except on extreme days like the Fourth of July.”
Adkins explained the evolution of trash collection on the beach during the busy summer nights dating back two or three decades ago.
“I’m going back 20 or 30 years when we used to collect trash on the beach with a series of beach tractors that pulled white, wooden wagons and the guys manually dumped the barrels into these wagons,” he said. “They then drove the wagons to 65th Street and they had to manually shovel out all of the wagons.”
Adkins explained in the next evolution of beach trash collection, the town purchased three vehicles called Broyhill barrel dumpers that emptied the contents of the blue trash barrels into large bins akin to a dumpster mounted on the back of the truck.
“We wanted at that point to work more efficiently, work smarter and eliminate some of the manpower issues, so we went with the Broyhill barrel dumpers,” said Adkins. “We’ve been using those machines for at least 10 years now. We own three of them and they’re just about worn out.”
However, the Broyhill machines came with a different set of problems. Adkins said the dumpster-like containers sitting on the back of the machines were off-loaded at various locations around the resort including residential areas. There are 21 of the dumpsters that are dropped off at various locations at night when they are filled and then emptied in the morning by the solid waste division.
“Think about if you live in those areas,” he said. “Not only are you subject to these boxes being dropped off full between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. as we collect trash all night on the beach, then the following morning between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 a.m., the solid waste guys come around in their big blue trucks and empty them. Not only are they putting up with the noise in the middle of the night, but then their putting up with it again in the early morning hours. It’s just the nature of the beast.”
The next evolution presented on Tuesday is a large truck with four-wheel drive equipped with a large compacting container on the back that should be able to empty almost all of the blue trash barrels on the beach in one fell swoop. Parsons explained the town received an unexpected windfall with the sale of a vehicle that had outlived its purpose for the resort on the Internet site govdeals.com.
Parsons said the town anticipated receiving $10,000 for sale of the older vehicle on govdeals.com, but the truck actually sold for around $64,000, or a difference of about $54,000. By utilizing the unexpected revenue from the truck sold on govdeals.com, the $63,000 needed to convert the beach trash truck was essentially reduced to just $9,000.
“Every year when we do the vehicle trust, we budget how much we feel we’re going to get from the resale of vehicles,” said Parsons. “When we were in the budget process, I anticipated we would sell that vehicle for $10,000, but when we put it out on govdeals.com, it sold for $64,000. The gentleman who bought it owns a refuse company and he is looking to buy our next one. I can’t say we’ll the same amount out of it, but the first one came in $54,000 more than we budgeted.”
Adkins said there was $235,000 funded for the four-wheel drive truck that was delivered last week. That truck can be sent back to the company on Louisville, Ky. to be converted for use as the beach trash collection truck and be sent back to Ocean City ready to go in about 60 days.
“It takes care of our time-sensitivity issues for the beach operation and takes care of our needs for the summer,” he said.
Councilman John Gehrig asked Adkins to boil down the complicated transaction to its simplest terms.
“Just to be clear, you’re asking for the approval of $63,000 to convert this beach trash collection truck, but we hit the lottery with the govdeals.com truck, so we’re basically covered?” he said. “Basically, it’s a $9,000 difference.”
Adkins confirmed that was the case, and the council voted 5-0, with Council Secretary Mary Knight and Councilman Wayne Hartman absent, to allocate the additional $63,000 for the new trash collection truck with the understanding the windfall from the govdeals.com sale would be utilized to offset the cost. Adkins said the new trash collector should eliminate the need for the various trash container drop-off sites around the resort.
“If it proves to me this summer that it works, then all of those boxes will be gone from those sites,” he said. “Realistically, I want to survive the summer of 2017. I’m not going to rush out and say sell the three Broyhills. We’re going to set them off to the side because I need a safety net to get through the summer because the last thing I want is a dirty beach.”
Mayor Rick Meehan praised the out-of-the-box thinking to make the deal work, but questioned if there was a back-up plan in case the new truck failed at some point during the summer.
“I think this is a great opportunity,” he said. “The only question I have is what is the back-up plan? All vehicles tend to break down from time to time, so what would the back-up plan be moving forward? Would you be looking to add a second one of these vehicles in the future?”
Adkins said there could be a request for a second trash collector in the future, but he was holding onto the old Broyhill machines as a back-up plan in the immediate future.
“I do envision that’s the direction we’ll go, but I’m not rushing in that direction,” he said. “I not requesting another one of these right now and I don’t want to rush to get rid of the Broyhills. I would say maybe 18 to 24 months out, we could be discussing a second vehicle.”
Meehan said he was satisfied there was a sufficient back-up plan for the new collector, which he said should change how the mountains of trash are collected from the beach each summer.
“This is a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s going to increase our efficiency, it’s going to increase the cleanliness of the beach and it’s going to improve our operations.”
As a side benefit, the new trash collector could ultimately eliminate even more of the ubiquitous blue barrels from the beach in the future.
“This vehicle will open the door for some pilot programs and experiments on our end,” he said. “I’m extremely conscious of the fact that 12 to 18 months ago we reduced the number of blue barrels on the beach and adjusted them accordingly. What we plan to do over the next few years is continue our waste audit on the beach.”
Adkins explained some areas of the beach are more populated then others and naturally need more trash receptacles. The town has been experimenting with adding the large, round 300-gallon trash containers in certain areas, but the current Broyhill machines could not dump the larger containers. The new truck will be able to do that, so there could be a mixture of traditional 55-gallong trash cans in some areas with the larger 300-gallon containers.