Bermuda’s incinerator plant is in need of a speedy upgrade as garbage collection continues to present challenges due to both shortages of staff and equipment.

In a Ministerial Statement in the House on Friday, Public Works Minister Colonel David Burch told MPs the time has come to make the “ultimate decision on the future of the Tynes Bay Waste to Energy Facility for the construction of a third stream or a further refurbishment”.

Either way, he said it needs to happen within the next three years “in order for the plant to remain reliable”.

And he said: “Garbage collection continues to be a challenge with both shortages of equipment and personnel. Regularly we have as few as eight (8) trucks serviceable out of a fleet of 19 – with maintenance and a shortage of parts being major factors.”

The Minister also noted that “an initial wave of recruitment of five laborers is currently in train”. And there’s a study “progressing on reviewing zones, a possible transfer station, the number and type of trucks and of course the appropriate level of staffing”. 

But he said: “The overtime budget has been exhausted and we will look elsewhere within the ministry to supplement this in order to keep on top of collection schedules.

Bermuda Real File Photo

“Like many things we have found, the budget was arbitrarily reduced last cycle from the requested amount and no consideration of the reality of the situation was planned for,” said Col Burch.

“Limited trucks and personnel both combine to create the need for ongoing overtime. Adding new staff, new trucks to the fleet and enhanced operating procedures will eventually lead to a significant reduction in the amount of overtime.”

On the upgrade needed within the next three years at the Tynes Bay incinerator plant, Government has commissioned “a study to do an analysis of timelines, options, and of course cost to explore which is more beneficial in the long term”.

“The costs are significant for either option along with the likely requirement for extensive space for baled garbage for an extended period during construction,” said Col Burch. “Concurrently, the restructuring of the operations and management section is currently under way to create more efficiency and clarity of responsibilities. Focusing on plant competency for the operations team to raise the bar on good practices.

“We are currently short four (4) operator positions due to attrition and staff leaving generally for higher compensation, as one reason. Plans are afoot to launch both a new cohort of Bermudian trainees next year (in conjunction with work force development) as well as the recruitment of four (4) overseas power engineers to fill gaps while this training occurs.”

Admittedly, he said: “We lose staff to Belco more and more as our compensation mechanisms fail to keep up with the competition. Gaining more flexibility by becoming a quango may be a solution as current government compensation grading doe not take into account risk management, which is a high contributing factor to persons not wanting to stay and progress through the ranks.

“All options are on the table to secure and retain qualified Bermudian talent and we shall aggressively explore those options without apology.”

Additionally, he said the section is in need of a better management structure.

Sessions House, Bermuda

“There is a need for more environmental/safety oversight plus an operational manager to oversee the superintendents and allow the solid waste manager to focus on strategy rather than day to day operations,” said Col Burch.

“The option of amalgamating this section with Tynes Bay is also being explored to provide synergy and a more comprehensive structure. The first step is to action the recommendation for a staff appointment to begin this process. Of course all these options are geared towards improved efficiency and reduced costs.

And “changes soon to take place with regard to the operating hours of the Tynes Bay Public Drop Off Facility”.

“This facility is a free service provided to residents for the disposal of household waste items including bulky and special waste. In 2013 the operating hours were reduced as part of cost savings measures.

“Through collaborative efforts with the operating contractor and ministry staff, we are able to extend the weekday hours of the facility, which was a constant request by many members of the public.

“Effective November 1st, 2017 the weekday operating hours will change from the current hours of 9am to 6pm to 7am to 6pm, allowing residents to more easily dispose of garbage before heading to work.

“All other hours of operation will remain the same. These include Saturdays from 7am to 7pm, Sundays from 1pm to 6pm and on public holidays from 9am to 12 noon, exclusive of Christmas Day, where the facility will remain closed.” Minister Burch also noted “that through the application of monies already owed to government that the extended weekday hours comes at no additional cash expenditure”.

“This is an excellent example of how the public and private sectors can work collaboratively together, using creative solutions to provide better levels of service to the public without further impacting the public purse,” he said. In response to several requests to reinstate the bulk waste collection service for large household items, he said government is “exploring ways” to “implement a version of this in the most cost effective manner”.

“The bottom line is that, as a country concerned about our environment, we all must make a greater effort to reduce the incredible amount of waste we produce. The greatest motivator I suspect is the cost to each and every tax payer – reduce waste equates to less taxation – don’t reduce waste likely leads to greater taxation.”

The Minister concluded by “paying tribute to staff at Tynes Bay and especially our sanitation workers all of whom do and continue to do an outstanding job under some of the most trying circumstances”.

“Honourable members could give a thought to those hard working sanitation workers – not just when your garbage is collected late but give thanks when it is collected and on occasion – express that thanks directly to them,” the Minister said.

Further reports on other areas of his Ministry will be made over the next several weeks. In the interim, Minister Burch said “visiting the satellite locations of the various departments that comprise the Ministry of Public Works” will continue. To date, he has met with various department heads and “front line staff” in several areas.