Town considers study for trash pick up

A consultant might help Front Royal improve trash pickup service but the idea already has one critic.

Town Council on Tuesday talked about a proposal to hire a consultant who would evaluate the Solid Waste Management Department and possibly make recommendations on how Front Royal could improvement its operations.

The department operated at a loss for years. An increase in the collection fees helped the department cover its operating costs and Town Manager Steve Burke said a study might help Front Royal keep levies at bay.

The town’s Department of Environmental Services recently received proposals from three firms interested in the job. Staff members have recommended that council award a $20,000 contract to MSW Consultants of Orlando, Florida. The town’s budget includes the money for a contract to come out of the Solid Waste Department’s fund.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt panned the notion of hiring a consultant. Tewalt recalled that years ago the town hired a consultant who recommended Front Royal buy larger collection trucks that are “inefficient.” The trucks were too big and could not be filled to capacity or else they would become too heavy, he said.

“We followed their guidelines and the whole thing was a shambles,” Tewalt said. “It never helped us at all, the whole process. Matter of fact it made us more inefficient.”

Tewalt, who worked as the director of public works years ago, said making the routes a priority would solve problems with department efficiency. Tewalt said he’s seen trucks go down his street three or four times in a day — an inefficient way to do business.

“I am not in favor of doing more studies,” Tewalt said. “Over my time — 25 years as director — we’ve done seven, eight or nine studies and none of them have been efficient unless you’ve got a supervisor that’s out making sure that the employees and the drivers are following the routes that they are designed to follow, and when you get that you’ll find that it doesn’t take a brain to figure this out.”

The consultant would look at how the department operates and come up with ways Front Royal could improve the agency’s efficiency, Burke said. The study would take into consideration the future development of the recently annexed 604 acres, and the Leach Run Parkway.

The consultant would also give Front Royal an idea about how its solid waste department compares to those in other jurisdictions.

“If their recommendation came back that the town should consider outside services, then we would pursue an evaluation of that,” Burke said.

Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe said he would oppose any move to privatize solid waste pickup in town — an idea raised years ago.

“I’m just not into that direction at this time,” Tharpe said. “I want to see where we’re failing, where we can make our improvements to ourselves without wrecking what we have.”

Mayor Timothy Darr said he had supported the idea of setting aside money for a consultant to evaluate the solid waste collection efforts. Darr pointed out that, for years, the town had to transfer money from one fund to the Solid Waste Department for that agency to break even. The town department now operates in the black, Burke said.

“We do want to make our service better and that is the main goal of what we’re looking for from this consultant, is what we can do to better serve the community,” Burke said.

Darr said he hopes the consultant’s evaluation takes into consideration the town’s growth, including the future development of 604 acres of land Front Royal annexed last year.

Burke provided copies of the three proposals to council at the meeting. Members decided to bring the matter back to a future work session so council could review the proposals.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com