The Petersburg Borough Assembly is moving forward on a solid waste contract that is 34% more expensive than its current one. However, it’s unlikely that Borough customers will see increased bills this year.

The Borough’s current contract expires at the end of August. At the Borough Assembly meeting on July 17th, Public Works Director Chris Cotta recommended a new two-year contract with Republic Services, their current contractor, with an option to renew for a third year. 

Cotta said the bid is more expensive than the current contract, but still cheaper than other options. “We talked to two other regional haulers. And we were able to get one other quote.” He said. “That other quote was higher than the one we got from Republic. So at least we know, okay, we took a competitive look at this. And for now, for today, this is the best deal we could get.

But Cotta said that extra income from the borough’s sanitation department will likely offset the more expensive contract. The sanitation fund is self-supporting, which means that it basically functions as a business. No tax dollars go into it. Instead, fees at the baler are used to offset costs elsewhere. This year, the baler has been extremely busy. Cotta said that the sanitation department has made quite a bit more in baler fees than expected, due to lots of construction waste. However, Cotta wasn’t sure whether the extra revenue is a trend or a fluke.

“At this point, you know, I feel like it’s probably just a really big year, and that we can’t really count on, you know, those kinds of volumes in the future.” He said. “My staff are telling me that our volumes are up again, you know, this season.”

He said that the increased costs would likely need to be addressed in next year’s Borough budget, with the possibility of a rate increase.

Republic Services currently provides the containers that are used to ship the baled waste. But once the new contract ends in two or three years, they will require customers to provide their own shipping containers. That will add both cost and the logistics of operation and maintenance. 

Cotta is planning to use the next two years of the contract to explore options. He said Public Works is always looking for ways to reduce prices and mitigate the effects of inflation.

“We’ve got some time to work on the problem.” Cotta said. “Two years isn’t a lot of time in the world of garbage, that’s really, you know, a short period of time, but we should be able to flush out some of these problems during that time period, and come up with solutions.”

Cotta has talked with the Petersburg Indian Association about expanding their existing composting program and is also looking into reopening the city landfill for construction debris. He said he is also exploring options with the Southeast Alaska Solid Waste Authority for regional solutions including alternative waste disposal. 

Assembly members voted unanimously to adopt the contract in its first reading.