McCOOK, Nebraska -- According to the owner of the City of McCook's contracted trash hauler, Fritz Trucking, the city's emergency purchase of two 2006 Freightliner semi trucks last month was unnecessary. Steve Fritz told the Gazette this morning that the city getting into the trucking business was not the right solution and information in tonight's City Council meeting agenda pertaining to the item was inaccurate.
The McCook City Council will consider confirming what city staff has labeled as an "emergency purchase" of the two semi trucks. The vehicles were purchased by city staff on Sept. 19, at a cost of $34,900 each, which city staff said was due to a build up of trash in late August and early September that placed the city transfer station "one unexpected load away from having a shutdown."
The meeting agenda indicates that Fritz Trucking has had issues with having more than one trailer available to haul city trash from the transfer station, leading to the trash buildup and near shutdown.
Fritz said that the issues with city trash hauling had been ongoing due to increased volume from hail storm repair and restrictive hours at the McCook Transfer Station, not an availability of his trucks. Fritz said the transfer station is open only enough hours for three outgoing loads a day and regularly receives 4-5 inbound loads. City staff must authorize overtime before his trucking company is allowed to haul a fourth load out, which usually occurs after the buildup has already become a problem.
Fritz said he has made several suggestions for simple changes to operations at the Transfer Station that would allow his company to regularly haul a fourth truck out, but city staff has not been receptive. Fritz explained that the two city staff working the transfer station are scheduled from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., if one were shifted from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the other from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., it would allow him to regularly haul the additional load but city staff has instead chosen to purchase two semi trucks and add one CDL driver position.
Fritz said the only issue with availability for his trucks occurred in July when he had a transmission go out on one of his trucks the day after city staff authorized overtime hours for an additional load. The overtime was due to increased loads received from the demolition of county buildings north of the courthouse. Fritz said that he is contracted with the city to have two trucks available, but after the July incident he made a third truck available and has communicated to city staff he will continue to have three trucks available for city trash hauling.
The city council agenda for tonight's meeting, 7:30 p.m., indicates that the purchase of the semi trucks was carried out without council approval due to a build up of trash in late August and early September, however, Fritz said that is not accurate and cites city records that show less than a load of trash on the floor of the transfer station on the first of September.
According to Fritz the trash build up could be resolved if city staff tracked and managed the volume of their incoming loads better, instead of waiting for the transfer station floor to fill up and then requesting overtime for their employees and a previously unscheduled truck from his company.
The city council will also consider a rate increase request from Fritz Trucking tonight. Fritz said he has been communicating with city staff about the need for the rate increase since May, due to an abundance of bulky material and a trending per load decrease in weight. Fritz said that although the overall volume has increased, individual load weight had been on a decreasing trend for the last several years. Fritz attributed the shift to the number of construction projects going on in the area, as well as product being received from the ethanol plant.
Fritz said "roll offs" from construction sites had come in full of product but with a weight as light as 600 pounds, when they typically hold as much as 20,000 pounds in product.
Fritz said approximately 40 to 50 percent of the trash loads he hauled for the city were underweight, yet filled a trailer.
Fritz has requested his trash hauling contract with the City of McCook be amended from a per ton rate of $13.50 to $16.50 per ton. The increase is estimated to amount to an annual increase to the city of $42,000.
During each of the two September City Council meetings, councilors entered executive session for a strategy session pertaining to "potential litigation regarding solid waste disposal."
After returning from the first session they amended the employee pay plan to include a new, previously undiscussed, full time tractor-trailer operator position that would require a CDL. Councilors announced the position would not be filled and was "just in case."
Fritz said that city staff at the transfer station had previously indicated to him their desire for the city to purchase their own trucks. Fritz also said that city staff had informed him they had mechanics already on staff that would handle the maintenance and upkeep of the recently purchased semi trucks, adding that "there is a lot of maintenance involved with trucks used for trash hauling, they will likely need to add another mechanic position."
City Manager Jeff Hancock told the Gazette this morning that the majority of maintenance upkeep on the newly purchased semi trucks would be done by city staff and items that they could not do would be contracted out. "We do not plan to add any additional staff other than the CDL driver that was added in September," said Hancock.
"It has always been the city's desire that Fritz Trucking continue their contractual agreement with the city. The decision to purchase equipment was not made lightly and was not only based on Fritz's contractual responsibility, but also the city's responsibility to ensure our citizens trash service would not stop," said Hancock in a statement to the Gazette.
Hancock reiterated that the purchase of the two semi trucks was intended as a back up plan to ensure trash service continued and said the city already had other CDL licensed drivers employed that would assist on a part-time basis as needed.
Fritz said he planned to communicate his concerns to councilors this evening and felt like city staff was making the scenario sound much worse than it was. "When the city operated its own landfill it was regularly closed due to heavy winds and it was never the end of the world. The transfer station has not had to close one day during my 11 year history of hauling trash for the city," said Fritz.