, Salem, MA

December 17, 2012

A promising partnership on trash collection

The Salem News

---- — News that Beverly and Salem are exploring joint trash collection — at a potential savings to taxpayers — prompts one to wonder why nobody ever thought of this before.

It seems a no-brainer. Offer one contract for two neighboring cities, and trash haulers might be able to cut overhead and equipment costs. At the same time, the lure of such a large contract could produce more competition. Both those factors could result in lower costs for taxpayers.

For years, local officials have paid lip service to regionalizing services, with relatively few results. An effort to combine health board services in Peabody and Salem, for example, went nowhere. And so far, the lesson of the regional 911 service, to be based out of the sheriff’s headquarters in Middleton, has been that it’s incredibly difficult to get towns, and union members, to buy into shared services.

In the case of Beverly and Salem trash contracts, there’s a big incentive, because such contracts are costly. Beverly now pays nearly $1.3 million a year, while Salem pays nearly $2.8 million (a figure that includes the cost of disposal as well as collection.) If hoped-for savings don’t materialize, there’s an escape clause for both cities.

In the meantime, kudos to Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll for being willing to try creative solutions to reducing costs.