City looks into buying multipurpose garbage truck; commissioners disagree over cost savingsWarrenton - The Warrenton City Commission wants to stay in the garbage business, at least for now.

On a 3 to 2 vote, the commission decided to move toward buying a new garbage truck rather than contracting with Western Oregon Waste (WOW), which provides garbage and recycling service to every other jurisdiction in Clatsop County. The city already contracts with WOW for recycling service and garbage collection for large commercial customers, including Rilea Armed Forces Training Center, KOA Kampground, Fred Meyer and Costco, which city garbage trucks can't handle.

"If we go with WOW it will be a monopoly," Commissioner Dick Hellberg said, calling WOW's proposal "too good to be true." That proposal would maintain the current $21.70 monthly garbage fee, serve all Warrenton businesses and homes, offer several trash container options, and make the city's $450,000 sanitation fund balance available for other purposes, such as water, sewer, streets and marinas.

"I see no reason why a public utility can't do this job as well as a private entity," Hellberg said, expressing concern that three city positions would be lost if WOW took over garbage collection.

Mayor Gil Gramson and Terry Ferguson supported Hellberg's motion directing city staff to research the cost of a new garbage truck and produce a plan to make the city garbage service more efficient, with the information to be presented to the commission within 45 days.

Ferguson was especially concerned that contracting with WOW would eliminate city positions. "Our position is to create jobs, not get rid of jobs," he said. "If we're going to get out of the garbage business, we might as well get out of public works."

Commissioners Mark Kujala and Frank Orrell voted no.

"A private entity can usually do things more efficiently," Kujala said. Orrell said Warrenton's reputation for garbage collection isn't very good. "I don't think government can ever beat private enterprise at what they do best," Orrell said, adding that privatizing garbage collection would save money for Warrenton residents.

However, Hellberg said he was "not comfortable with the numbers" provided to the commission by City Manager Ed Madere, which indicate that if the city continues to provide its own garbage service, monthly fees would need to go up to $29.97, a 30-percent jump.

Gramson said the city has several advantages over private business because it shares the cost of operations with other utilities, doesn't pay taxes and doesn't have to make a profit.

Gramson also disputed Madere's analysis, saying it was based on the city buying two new garbage trucks. The commission has decided to consider buying just one multipurpose garbage truck, so fees will remain about the same as they are now, Gramson said, if the city continues to provide garbage service.

Dave Haskell, the city's public works director, expressed some reservations about buying a multipurpose garbage truck.

"I don't know that one truck that does everything is really efficient," he told the commission. Haskell will be working with a public works task force to come up with ideas for making city garbage collection more efficient.

In other business, the Warrenton Commission:

Heard a report from Hellberg, who headed the Hammond Marina task force. He said parking, signage, restrooms, trash collection and maintenance need to be improved. Cost of the improvements, which he hopes can be added to the budget and accomplished this year, is about $21,300.

Hellberg said it would take a commitment from the commission to get the improvements through the budget process, which is under way. Mayor Gramson praised the task force's efforts. "It's a very good start. Now we've got to move ahead and see that some of this gets done."

Awarded a paving contract for Skipanon Park to Rieck and Smith Paving Co., Inc., low bidder at $31,995. A decision on a landscaping contract was postponed.

Considered a draft ordinance on abatement of dangerous structures that would allow the city to enforce its codes more effectively. Staff will continue to work on the ordinance and will bring it back for consideration.

Approved a lease for property at Hammond Marina for Robert and Gene Wirt to operate the Burger Barge, which would serve food and provide box lunches for fishermen.

Approved an engineering agreement HLB for the wastewater treatment plant.

The city expects to break ground on the new plant within the next 30 days.