AVON PARK – The trash-trucking trial is over and, so far, it’s going just as city officials planned it.
After a month-long trial period of trucking garbage from Avon Park to the Okeechobee Landfill near Lake Okeechobee, about a 120-mile round-trip, for the second month in a row the city has saved money.
In an Aug. 2 e-mail to Avon Park staff and city council, City Manager Julian Deleon wrote Avon Park saved about $9,000 in July. The savings were achieved because the Highlands County Landfill charges $45 per ton, while Okeechobee’s rate is 44 percent less at $25 per ton.
In June, the first month the city began exporting its rubbish, the gross savings was $11,181. Deleon estimated the city realized an additional savings of $2,100 in fuel and an added $1,100 in overtime. The estimated net savings to the city’s residents that month was $7,981.
The net savings for the city have been between $7,000 and $9,000 per month, said Deleon, depending on how much volume is processed for the month. He said vegetation waste is difficult to predict; large vegetation piles are trucked to the city’s exclusive vegetation landfill, but the smaller piles are loaded into a rear-loading garbage truck.
With the savings, Avon Park has bought and equipped four sanitation trucks with monitoring cameras for quality control, safety and risk managements and for GPS fleet tracking, Deleon said. The cost for the technology was about $1,500 per vehicle.
Deleon said, in turn, the cameras are adding up to additional savings through the technology of the four-camera DVR-GPS system that documents each side of the road, the front and back of the trucks.
The system has already been useful. Deleon said by reviewing video obtained from the cameras, the public works department saw the city had been picking up vegetation waste around the Lake Viola service area, which is outside the city limits of Avon Park.
Also, Deleon said, in case of accidents or disputes in collections, the camera systems record evidence. In the past, he said, the city has had to deal with complaints that garbage trucks have damaged private property such as custom curbing, garbage cans, driveways or the block walls and gates housing the commercial dumpsters.
“We have the camera systems on the trucks. They make it a lot safer for drivers when there’s a blind spot,” said Donald Gordon, Avon Park’s public works superintendent.
As for the recent implementation of trucking out rubbish, Gordon said it’s been “running smoothly.” There are currently three sanitation truck drivers who take turns making the two-and-a-half hour, round-trip drive to Okeechobee once a day.
“It’s working out for the city and we haven’t had any problems,” said Gordon, who has worked for the City for 12 years.
Overall, the savings to Avon Park comes through trucking and labor savings. The county’s landfill is a long haul for smaller trucks, and this type of a transport operation consolidates all of the waste generated in Avon Park’s service area into one large truck to make the daily trip.
The savings to residents and the return to the city through new equipment has made the exportation worth the while, said City Councilman Terry Heston. He said whatever helps lead to a reduction in sanitation rates is good for the city, its businesses and residents.
“So far, I think it has been a good decision. We’ve saved a lot of money over the past two months,” he said.
Deleon said through annexation of the Crystal Lake, Brentwood and Banyan Woods communities, Avon Park will be adding another 600 sanitation customers by January 2015.
He said discussions into building a trash transfer station in Avon Park have already begun and the need to export rubbish would eventually be eliminated. A transfer station is a processing site for the temporary storage of waste and used at places where local waste collection vehicles deposit their waste cargo prior to loading into larger vehicles
In Lake Placid, the town administration contemplated hauling trash to Okeechobee, but decided to continue to keep its business local and in the county.