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Decision to outsource Aberdeen trash collection delayed after city council member exposed to coronavirus

A decision on whether to draw up a contract to outsource Aberdeen’s trash collection services to a private company was delayed after a city council member was exposed to someone with coronavirus and had to quarantine.

Councilman Timothy Lindecamp, who works at Aberdeen High School, was not present at Monday’s meeting of the council, having come into contact with someone carrying the coronavirus. Because the issue of refuse collection in the city is a hot topic, the city attorney advised Mayor Patrick McGrady to wait for the whole council to be present for the vote.

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The council had previously planned to reach a decision at Monday’s meeting before Lindecamp had to quarantine.

“This is a monumental decision,” McGrady said. “[Lindecamp] wants to participate in this process; I want him to participate in the process.”

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The next council meeting is scheduled for April 12, but McGrady said another meeting would be called before that where the council will make a decision and give city staff guidance on the path forward for the service. A date for that special meeting was not immediately announced.

Earlier this month, Aberdeen’s Department of Public Works formally submitted a request to the city council to outsource the trash service to GFL, a waste management company that services several counties and municipalities in Maryland.

At that earlier meeting, public works staff provided city leaders with a memorandum requesting approval for the partnership. The recommendation states the first year of private service would cost $1.28 million and provide trash, recycling and 10 months of yard waste collection. Price increases are accounted for in subsequent years, and the service would cost about $1.38 million in the fourth year of the agreement.

Refuse collection has been a developing issue in Aberdeen. While the majority of residents are happy with the city’s trash collection service, reports from the department of public works show that it would have to expand to handle the increasing number of stops in the city.

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City trucks are old and frequently break down, and the hours are long for the small crew collecting trash from the city’s existing 4,600 stops, the department has reported. That led the city to consider whether it should handle refuse collection in-house or contract it out to a private company.

Alternately, if the city were to keep trash collection in-house, it would have to greatly expand its existing trash services, at a cost of an estimated $2 million in the coming fiscal year. A large portion of that would be for one-time capital expenses, including three new trash trucks, another heavy duty lift, constructing a new concrete pad and pole barn. The city would also have to hire four new people, one of whom must be a mechanic.

That would give the city what it immediately needs by July to continue the service, but not what it will need up to 10 years down the road, officials said. Estimated costs quickly flatten after FY22 but are still over $300,000 more costly than the current fiscal year’s price for trash collection, approximately $1 million.

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