An order will soon be placed for the city’s first automated garbage trucks.
Nanaimo city council has agreed to automate garbage pick up for a third of the Harbour City to the tune of an estimated $2.3 million.
The decision is a change in direction for councillors who originally agreed to buy two manually-operated but “automation-ready” vehicles earlier this year.
It’s also not the $6.8-million strategy for automation pitched by city staff members in April.
Council was asked Oct. 26 to approve a phased three-year, $6.8-million plan to help address a collection system taxed by staff injuries and mechanical problems. It would see the city commit to purchasing 90,000 wheeled bins and eight automated trucks, which would allow for bulk purchasing and consistent user rates across the city. Recycling would also be brought in house.
Council scrapped those staff recommendations in a 5-4 vote, choosing instead to purchase two automated trucks and 30,000 wheeled bins. In-house recycling will also cover just a third of city households.
It’s not yet known what that means for user rates, and the city’s recycling contract for the those homes not covered under the new program or when the rest of Nanaimo will be included in the automated system, but Charlotte Davis, the city’s manager of sanitation and recycling said council’s decision is still a huge positive.
“It’s a bit more broken down, absolutely, and it might be a bit more work, but it’s a huge step forward and as well, I am bolstered by council’s reference I just come back next year [with Phase 2],” she said. “I do think people are going to love the new automation system.”
Nanaimo city councillors spent more than an hour debating the approach to automated garbage pick up. Councillors Ian Thorpe and Wendy Pratt favored the original strategy pitched by city staff. Thorpe said it will save money in the long term and reduce or eliminate workplace injuries. He did not see the point in phasing in two automated vehicles at a time, with a business plan that shows it makes sense to do it now and take advantage of bulk buying and a CNG rebate.
Pratt said the original plan was a well thought-out plan to get to a point where all employees are safe, protects the taxpayer and the budget. She is “shocked” council turned it down.
However, other councillors took issue with the expense of eight trucks and preferred starting off with a commitment of just two. Coun. Jerry Hong said he has no problem with taking a look at the plan continuing next year if there’s success and still believes they are moving forward.
Coun. Jim Kipp said council is actually speeding up the process and farther ahead than where it was, when it approved automation-ready vehicles in June.
The process to purchase trucks is expected to begin immediately.