Hirschmann's good idea: Automated trash pickup is working
August 17. 2018 4:14PM
Two years ago, Manchester alderman Keith Hirschmann pushed through an idea that he thought would both save Manchester taxpayers some money and help protect Manchester city employees from on-the-job injuries.
Ever a sharp-eyed watchdog of the Queen City's finances, Hirschmann noticed that workers compensation claims from trash collectors were averaging nearly $300,000 per year. That's a lot of money and a lot of injured workers.
Nashua had started using special trucks that can pick up and empty a trash bin into the back without having a worker have to lift the bin. Mark Gomez, environmental programs manager for the Manchester Public Works Department, proposed moving to automated trash collection in Manchester.
Hirschmann championed Gomez's proposal to test the new system in three city wards for one year, but it met with significant resistance. The trucks would be expensive. The city would either have to buy new bins or charge residents for them. Some worried the automated equipment would put city employees out of work.
The aldermanic Solid Waste Committee voted down Hirschmann's plan, but he brought it to the full board anyway, winning approval to test automatic trash collection in Wards 6, 7, and 12.
Last week, Gomez reported to aldermen that the pilot program has been extremely successful. No one working on the automated trucks reported a work-related injury the entire year. Gomez estimates that the trucks prevented seven injuries, which would have resulted in 525 lost hours and $30,000 in workers compensation expenses.
Alderman Dan O'Neill, who opposed the initial proposal, agrees that the automated trucks have helped make the city cleaner.
Aldermen will now consider expanding the automated system to routes covering two-thirds of the city The trucks wouldn't be used downtown, in narrow alleys, or on most one-way streets.
The pilot program improved city services while benefitting employees and taxpayers alike, and could soon spread across Manchester. It only happened because Gomez was willing to bring forward an innovative idea, and because Hirschmann had the fortitude to overcome political inertia among his aldermanic colleagues.