Marion is scurrying to find a solution to its continuing saga of its main curbside trash collector truck’s persistent habit of breaking down, delaying trash collection sometimes for longer than one day, and costing the town tens of thousands of dollars in seemingly futile repairs.
The truck was recently repaired again after its latest breakdown and, according to interim supervisor of the Department of Public Works, Jon Henry, the truck was “all put back together,” as Selectman Randy Parker put it, but it was back at the mechanic soon after.
“It’s got the same problem it went in there with,” said Parker on February 8. He said the Town was billed “for work that got done that wasn’t needed,” apparently, so the actual problem was not repaired. The work that was done, however, caused a chain reaction, said Parker, which then blew out the truck’s radiator.
Now the mechanic says the truck needs a new engine entirely at an estimated cost of $50,000.
“I have no confidence in this truck, even as a backup truck,” Parker said.
The selectmen know for certain that continuing on repairing the truck is not a long-term solution, and barely is it a short-term solution, either.
The problem is that buying a new truck, even a used one, will require Town Meeting approval, and the Annual Town Meeting is still three months away. Meanwhile, the truck continues to breakdown. And another costly repair such as this latest one, Parker said, “It’s probably a pretty expensive temporary fix if the voters decide to go in another direction.”
“We may have to call a Special Town Meeting; I don’t know at this point yet,” said Town Administrator Paul Dawson.
And then there is still the matter of ordering a new truck, which, by the time the funds are made available on July 1, would likely take until November to be delivered. The selectmen may be forced to ask Town Meeting for funding to lease a trash truck in the meantime, which is currently $1,250 per day, an option the DPW has had to take sporadically over the past few months in order to keep up curbside trash collection. If there is a chance at getting a lower rate for a longer-term lease, selectmen might consider it as a viable temporary solution.
The selectmen are seeking bids from businesses to outsource the town’s trash collection and may instead ask Town Meeting voters to approve funding for a contract with a vendor, but the discussion will continue as the options are studied.
By Jean Perry