Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Does City Need Third Drop-Off Center for Waste?

DPW says it would provide efficiencies, but one alderman balks at the cost.

By - Dec 29th, 2021 02:18 pm
The south side drop-off center. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The southside drop-off center. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The City of Milwaukee’s two drop-off centers can be busy places. More than 1,000 visitors per day use the facilities which are available for disposal of excess recycling, trash and yard waste. On particularly busy days, a line of vehicles extends onto nearby streets.

The existing facilities are located at 3879 W. Lincoln Ave. on the south side and 6600 N. Industrial Rd. on the far northwest side. But earlier this year the Department of Public Works (DPW) put together a preliminary estimate of what it would take to set up a third site at another location.

DPW studied the possible use of a city-owned parcel at 3940 N. 35th St. The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee purchased the 13.41-acre site, located along W. Capitol Dr., from an affiliate of Tower Automotive in 2019 with plans to develop it as part of the neighboring business park.

“It was all conceptual, hypothetical site planning, but we needed to choose a parcel [to study],” said sanitation services manager Rick Meyers at a September meeting of the Public Works Committee. “We actually did use a Century City parcel because we thought that that fairly approximates the location that would be most beneficial for operations if we had not only another drop-off site, but transfer station. There has been no discussion about that being an actual site to be used.”

DPW estimates it will cost $10.85 million to build just the drop off center, $19 million with a transfer station and $21.21 million with a transfer station and plow and salt storage facility.

“The current drop-off center is basically an outdoor collection of dumpsters,” said Alderman Robert Bauman. “What’s the $10 million for?”

Samantha Longshore, resource recovery program manager, said the costs were driven not just for the equipment, but the need to prepare, pave and light the site. The proposal calls for a pay booth, small office and a structure for storing electronics.

“It’s just a covered shed,” said Bauman of the electronics facility. Longshore said DPW prepared a detailed list of item costs.

“So you’re obviously recommending not doing this?” asked Bauman.

Meyers said it would have a variety of benefits and strategic long-term value. “We are just here to inform you about our initial assessment,” he said.

It is believed the third drop-off center could lead to reductions in illegal dumping, the wait times at other facilities and the city’s landfill costs (by increasing recycling rates).  The DPW report notes that the area around Century City sees an elevated level of illegal dumping today and that improving access to a legal disposal site could reduce the blighting influence. The impact of new fees on larger items at the drop-off centers is an item the council has debated in recent years.

There is a behind-the-scenes benefit to a third site said the DPW representatives. A transfer station could raise the revenue the city receives from others as landfills eventually move further from the city. It would also make it cheaper to operate the drop-off center. “The payback to include a transfer station, you would see that in about 19 years,” said Longshore.

Without a transfer station, DPW anticipates it would cost $1.76 million per year to operate the center. With a transfer station, that cost would fall to $1.42 million per year. Without a transfer station everything at the drop off center would need to be driven to a transfer station before being driven to a landfill.

RACM assistant executive director Dave Misky said the city and 30th Street Industrial Corridor Corp. business improvement district would be jointly marketing the studied site for sale in the coming months, but RACM and the Department of City Development would work with DPW to find another suitable site. The site DPW studied is part of the business park that DCD and RACM have spent years preparing for industrial development. The Century City 1 building, just east of the studied site, was recently announced as fully leased and a second building is planned. Talgo, according to a department representative, also extended its lease of a former Tower factory for five more years.

DPW previously sought $80,000 to conduct a more thorough study of how and where to develop a third site, but the council and mayor did not fund the effort. Ald. Michael Murphy asked the DPW to put together the preliminary estimate.

Categories: City Hall, Weekly

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