City looks to lower waste disposal costs

A $1.5 million proposal to construct a waste transfer station near the city garage in the Freeman Field Industrial Park in Seymour would combat increasing fuel costs, improve employee morale, could pay for itself in a few years and more.

Chad Dixon, director of the Seymour Department of Public Works, outlined the plan during a recent city council meeting while discussing his request for that amount from the $4.16 million in American Rescue Plan funds the city has received.

That request, however, was tabled along with other similar requests from city department heads and nonprofits pending clarification of how each would fit within the city ordinance because it requires showing loss incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic between Jan. 1, 2020, and March 3, 2021.

“It’s going to make quite a bit of difference for Seymour,” Dixon said. “Just for our operations and everything else, it’s going to be more efficient.”

With a waste transfer station, waste would be collected from throughout the city by smaller automated waste hauling trucks and held before three loads are combined into one semitrailer to Rumpke’s Medora Landfill.

On Monday morning, Dixon and Eric Chase, who is the DPW supervisor for waste handling, discussed the proposal with The Tribune.

Dixon said the idea is not a new one, as other city directors of public works in the past have worked on it.

“Internally, we have talked about it for a long time,” Dixon said. Especially after he became DPW director in 2020, he added.

The city has six trucks with four picking up waste and recycling in the city daily. Those trucks also then make daily trips to the landfill, which also offers recycling services.

Some of the drivers make the hourlong drive more than once a day, Chase said.

“These guys don’t take a break and/or lunch,” he said. “They do it all on their route.”

The trip also involves driving U.S. 50, which is winding and hilly near the landfill, which can cause issues during the winter, he said.

Chase said that can be bad for morale, and Dixon agreed, especially in these times when it’s hard to find and keep good employees when they can go somewhere else and make more money.

“We are very fortunate to keep the ones we have right now,” he said.

Dixon said the move to a waste transfer station would free up 2,000 hours of employee time and allow for training they need to do for their jobs, which can be hard to come by.

Chase said by freeing up some of the 21 employees from making the trip to Medora each day, it would allow them to do other tasks for the department, such as filling potholes or preventative maintenance.

In 2021, the city trucks made 1,400 trips to the landfill, which could be lowered to under 300, Dixon said.

That would produce cost savings because some of those trucks only get 3 to 5 miles a gallon of diesel fuel, which was about $5 a gallon on Monday.

The move to a waste transfer station also will save money because the city is presently paying Rumpke to pick up dumpsters full of large items collected from the residents and hauled to the city garage.

Large items cannot be placed in the small automated trucks to be hauled to the landfill. With the transfer station, those items can be placed with the regular waste and shipped in a semitrailer to the landfill.

The city paid Rumpke $22,000 for that service in 2021, Chase said.

That transfer station will sit on an 8.8-acre lot on the southwest corner of F Avenue and Fourth Avenue in the Freeman Field Industrial Park. The city has leased the additional land from the airport authority when it made the move from East Fourth Street Road to its present location at 865 F Ave. East in the industrial park in January 2013.

Dixon said he recently met with the airport authority board about the idea of using the land for a waste transfer station.

“They were supportive of it,” he said.

Dixon said the land where the center will be placed also is considered a state-approved dumpsite.

He said the Burkart Boulevard South Bypass has generated a lot of dirt that the city has had to haul to a state-approved dumpsite.

“If we are going to spend money for our dirt to go somewhere even though it is a federal job, it still reflects on what we do,” Dixon said. “I would much rather get our own dirt here instead of taking it somewhere else because we still need dirt (for other projects). So if we have overages, dirt and things like that, we can have it there while that contractor is doing the work.”

He said the return on the investment would be several years.

“Anything under 10 years is all right,” he said.

As far as proving the pandemic affected the department, Chase said there were times the landfill was closed, and city workers could not dispose of the waste that had been collected.