Rare public trash hauler

Tupper Lake garbage pick-up is one of last in Adirondack Park, and as its use wanes, village officials ponder whether to keep it going

Tupper Lake Department of Public Works Superintendent Bob DeGrace stands in front of a 1-ton pickup truck used for garbage collection. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — This village’s garbage pick-up service is one of the last in the Adirondacks, but the village government is considering ending the accommodation.

Roadside pickup in Tupper Lake has existed for around a century, but use and service has waned over the years. Now serving 221 customers, in its heyday the Department of Public Works served many more, who jumped at the opportunity to use the department’s “Anything you can get to the curb” policy.

DPW Superintendent Bob DeGrace remembers pulling chairs, wood and large boxes to the curb to be thrown into the department compactor truck, but around 15 years ago the iconic garbage truck was replaced with a 1-ton pickup truck with a dump box. The department now strictly collects household trash; anything large must be taken care of by the homeowner.

Still, the department hauls around 11,000 pounds of trash weekly to the transfer station on Little Wolf Road. The station sits in front of the old dump, which was closed in 1994 when Franklin County started carting all its garbage to Westville, north of Malone, in big bins stored at the transfer station. The department gets a reduced rate at the transfer station of $110 a ton.

Three men used to ride the compactor truck, collecting five days a week, but in recent years it has been a one-man job and collection has been reduced to two days a week. Tuesdays are uptown collection, and Wednesdays are downtown collection. The first Friday of every month is also recycling day.

Trash is piled in the back of the village of Tupper Lake’s 1-ton truck. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

Starting April 3, the department started to only collect 15 gallon bags or smaller. This was always an unofficial rule, but members had no problem taking larger loads than were technically allowed. Recently, however, two collectors were injured on the job while picking up heavily laden contractor bags. While there is usually a rotation of three DPW members for collection, one is getting rotator cuff surgery and another is out for the year with a back injury.

Residents buy $1.75 stickers from the village to tag their bags for pickup. Some had taken to filling a 60 gallon contractor bag with 15 gallon bags and using one tag.

“They were saving themselves a little bit of money, but it’s injuring our men,” DeGrace said.

The dump box is a little higher than the compactor, and after an hour or so of collecting, the bags need to be hefted high up to get inside.

DeGrace said while not everyone obeyed the new order immediately, the department only had to put “oops” reminder stickers on the bags for a few weeks. Now, all the bags they collect are under the 15 gallon requirement.

He also mentioned that come fall, leaf bags can be as big as needed and do not require stickers. The DPW dumps the leaves in a compost behind the village garage and use the final product to reclaim the sand pit near Little Wolf Beach.

“As we dig our sand pit, you can’t leave it at a steep bank,” DeGrace said. “We have to knock it down with our dozer and then we spread the compost and some grass seed on it.”

The DPW will also pick leaves up with the street sweeper if people want to just bring the piles to the edge of the road.

DeGrace said garbage collection is a small portion of the DPW’s daily efforts but that it is a nice service to provide for the elderly and people looking for cheap trash options. Both DeGrace and village Mayor Paul Maroun said municipal officials have considered ending the service but are not making decisions about it now.


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