Ann Arbor officials responding to large increase in recyclables with $102,000 facility upgrade
Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Ann Arbor's new single-stream recycling operation is exceeding expectations, city officials say. And it's going to take more upgrades to keep pace with the tons of materials pouring in.
The city plans to add a third incoming materials tipping door, relocate an outbound materials loading dock and upgrade the lighting system and fire suppression system.
"So it has taken off a little faster than what was anticipated," Mayor John Hieftje said as the City Council voted 10-0 Thursday night to spend $102,000 for additional improvements and processing changes at the Materials Recovery Facility at 4150 Platt Road.
Tom McMurtrie, the city's solid waste coordinator, lobbied the council to approve the upgrades under a contract with FCR LLC, operator of the city-owned facility for the past 15 years.
"The facility is very successful," McMurtrie said. "We're working two shifts a minimum of five days a week, sometimes seven days a week."
The city has invested nearly $5 million into the switch to single-stream this year.
McMurtrie gave a written report to council Thursday night that said the facility — a.k.a. the MRF — has experienced at least a 60 percent increase in tons above what was projected since the single-stream program started. He called that a good problem to have.
"We're making money on every ton that comes in," he said. "The way the system works is that we are getting 30 percent of the revenue that's generated from non-city tons above $54 a ton."
In the first four months under the new single-stream system, curbside residential recycling in Ann Arbor is up 17.3 percent from the previous year, McMurtrie said, while waste disposal is down 5.9 percent. He said the recycling rate has increased from 33.3 percent to 38.5 percent.
Total recyclable materials brought to the MRF, meanwhile, have more than doubled during the same four-month period, McMurtrie said.
"The numbers keep ramping up," he told council members.
McMurtrie said the revenue the city is collecting from the increased tonnages should offset the cost of making the additional upgrades over time. He also said it should decrease the seven-year payback rate on the single-stream project by about two and a half months.
McMurtrie explained the previous two-stream system had three tipping doors, and the hope was the new single-stream system would need only two. However, the facility has seen a significant increase in materials coming from the Toledo and Lansing areas under contracts with those cities, and now bottlenecks are causing excessive waits for recycling trucks.
Complicating the issue, McMurtrie said, is the fact that tonnages aren't delivered evenly over the day. More than half the material is usually delivered in the last few hours of the day, he said.
Reports show more than $31,000 of the additional money being poured into the facility will cover unanticipated costs related to the MRF's fire suppression sprinkler system.
Officials said the existing sprinkler system was in poorer condition than originally believed. And during the switch to the new single-stream system, contractors had to remove portions of the existing system that weren't anticipated, they said.
The original bid drawings for the fire suppression sprinkler system also were incomplete, city officials said, causing bids to be unrealistically low. They said the fire suppression company that completed the drawings went out of business shortly after bids were received.
FCR is contributing $5,000 toward the fire suppression portion of the project. City Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, asked McMurtrie why FCR was not contributing toward the cost of the tipping door or loading dock.
McMurtrie said if FCR were to chip in money for the loading dock or tipping door, the city would have to restructure its entire revenue sharing agreement.
"There's actually a building expansion going on right now that was originally planned for next spring," McMurtrie noted. "They moved that up and that expansion has broken ground. That is a $500,000 investment that FCR is making to this facility, so it's a partnership that's working both ways with them investing money as well as ourselves."
Under a separate resolution, the City Council approved a nearly $202,000 purchase of a new Volvo loader for the MRF and reimbursed FCR about $56,000 for baler repairs. The MRF's existing John Deere loader was purchased in 2003 and had clocked more than 20,000 hours of operation as of the end of September, city officials said.
In other action Thursday, the council approved the following:
â€¢ Purchase of $330,000 worth of salt to be used on city streets during the upcoming winter season. The Detroit Salt Co. was the low bidder at $48.25 per ton for 6,839.38 tons.
Last year, the city applied more than 4,882 tons of salt during the winter season. The city used 6,632 tons during the 2008-09 season, 8,500 tons during the 2007-08 season, 4,700 tons during the 2006-07 season, and 7,076 tons during the 2005-06 season.
â€¢ A resolution authorizing reimbursing the Downtown Development Authority for the city's share of utility improvements on South Division Street between William and Liberty streets. The city will cover $145,069 of the $375,817 project, which included 325 lineal feet of water main.
Through partnering with the DDA, an undersized and older water main was replaced with a new 12-inch main, which city officials said is adequately sized to enhance firefighting capabilities within the downtown area. Bids for the project were solicited by the DDA, and E.T. Mackenzie Co. was the lowest responsible bidder.
â€¢ A resolution to approve a $34,750 contract with Hooker/DeJong to prepare a strategic plan for the Ann Arbor Senior Center, a recommendation made by the city's Senior Center Task Force. About $16,949 of the cost is being covered by a grant from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, while $17,621 will come from the city.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.