Recycled cans at Petersburg’s baler (Photo courtesy of Cindi Lagoudakis)

Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday voted to move forward with replacement of the trash baler at the borough’s solid waste facility.

The machine compacts the community’s garbage before it’s tied with wire and then shipped south to a landfill. The municipality started using this baler in 1996. It has a conveyor belt, baling chamber and wire wrapping machine. The conveyor belt failed last spring leaving the community to ship unbaled garbage out of town.

Public works director Chris Cotta recommended to the assembly the entire baler be replaced. “Although the main frame of our baler appears to be in good condition, many of the other portions of the machine have failed or are failing,” Cotta said.

Cotta estimated replacing the baler would cost around 550,000 dollars while repairing the existing machine would cost around 420-thousand. He recommended against a third option, repairing the old machine as it breaks down.

“Reactive maintenance is not advisable for multiple reasons, the biggest of which is worker and customer safety,” Cotta said. “If for instance the conveyor structure should fail, it could cause a structural collapse and anything or anyone that is on or near the horizontal portion of the belt, which is over the pit, could potentially fall in. Another reason is the unpredictable nature of these types of failures. Not only will they cause extended unplanned down time but they will result in hefty unbudgeted expenditures as well.”

Cotta noted the project could be paid for with reserves in the sanitation utility but that the borough would have to look into raising garbage rates to make up for spending that money.

Assembly members were receptive to the idea, although Jeff Meucci questioned whether the borough department was planning for the future.

“I want to make sure it meets the needs of the community over, I’m just going to go, five years because who knows but I don’t want to replace it with something that we have,” Meucci said. “If there’s something out there that’s either more efficient or cost effective to run and maybe some of the needs of this community aren’t being met with that baler, are we looking into that stuff or are we just going to go out and purchase the latest baler?”

Cotta responded that kind of planning would happen during the process of seeking a replacement machine. Assembly members also didn’t want to see the cost of the replacement increase above the estimate Cotta provided. He also noted that he thought shipping companies would be requiring garbage to be baled in the next few years.
The assembly voted 6-0 to proceed with replacement. Taylor Norheim was not at the meeting.

It’s not a done deal yet. The assembly will have to approve the actual purchase of the equipment and agree to change the borough’s budget for the current fiscal year.
The assembly also hopes to hold a work session, yet to be scheduled, on solid waste and recycling sometime in the next two months.