Nation's Oldest City Grapples into the Future


Due to the current economic situations of many government agencies, it has become imperative to find creative ways to maintain services, increase revenue, and enhance the stability of budgets. In St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city, bulk collection has gone from a two-man collection to a one-man collection vehicle. As a result, the bulk collection system has become more efficient and cost effective. The Division of Solid Waste already utilizes a semi-automated collection system for residential service. A major challenge was how to handle bulk items and brush collection safely. Due to the growth of vegetation, number of rental properties, and city-mandated collection policies, bulk collection can range from 5% to 40% of generated municipal waste.

Prior to the grapple implementation, workers of the Division picked up brush and bulk items manually. This type of collection was performed in two ways. First, a flat bed truck used for bulk collection would assist the residential routes with brush collection by placing the brush manually into the bed area of the vehicle. Then the flat bed truck would dump the brush debris at the yard waste transfer station and proceed with the collection process. At the end of the week, a Streets Division front-end loader would then assist Solid Waste with disposal by loading the brush debris into roll-off boxes. Second, the flat bed bulk truck would load refrigerators, sleeper sofas, dishwashers, etc. and transport theses types of items to a roll-off container where they were manually unloaded into the boxes. This collection procedure was not only costly to the City, but also a recipe for worker injury. The City had such an injury occur shortly before the delivery of the new grapple vehicle due to lifting heavy items into the roll-off box.

In addition to this practice of bulk collection, the flat bed vehicle would drive through the City looking for items to be picked up. This process was very time-consuming and not the most efficient use of the workforce. Instead, the City decided to accomplish this by utilizing the grapple truck on a "will call" basis. The new process has residents contacting the City when they have bulky items to be picked up, reducing unnecessary fuel consumption and enhancing savings by 25 gallons of diesel fuel per week.

Implementation of the grapple truck into the City's collection process not only allowed the Solid Waste Division to reduce collection to a one-person operation, but also produced an annual savings of $20,883.00. Since the grapple truck also assists the rear load residential vehicles in the yard waste collection process, there is no longer a need for overtime.

The grapple truck also serves as the storm response vehicle for the Division. Due to the geographical location of St. Augustine, there is a potential for storms on the Atlantic side of Florida and the truck would be able to respond quickly to the needs of residents during such an event.

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