by Dennis Dalman
Should the City of Sartell authorize only one garbage hauler to do business in the city? Or only two or three? Or should it remain the same, with four?
That question has surfaced many times in recent years at city council meetings, most recently at its last one, Nov. 24.
Sartell residents can currently choose from among four haulers that operate in the city.
There are several reasons for considering the change: wear-and-tear on roads, safety factors, noise, dust raised up in alleys. Because there are four haulers operating citywide, some Sartell residents can see multiple trips in one day made by garbage trucks past their homes or back and forth in alleys.
In April 2013, the City of Sauk Rapids passed an ordinance allowing only one hauler to operate within the city limits. That two-year contract with Republic Services (formerly Allied Waste Services) was recently renewed for seven years.
For its Nov. 24 meeting, the Sartell City Council invited Sauk Rapids City Administrator Ross Olson to give a presentation of how that city arrived at its one-hauler-only policy.
The policy, Olson told the council, has been successful for all concerned, especially with residents who saw their garbage bills decrease dramatically. Olson, who happens to live in Sartell, has been the Sauk Rapids administrator for 13 years. The following is a summary of his presentation to the council:
About three years ago, Sauk Rapids explored the possibility of limiting garbage-hauling (residential only) to just one hauler rather than three or four. Such a change had been suggested previously, but residents always told public officials they wanted a choice in deciding who their haulers should be.
The city referred the question to its public-works committee to research other cities that have switched to a one-hauler policy. After that research data was presented, the city decided to meet with haulers for their input. All of the haulers, at first, said they would be happiest with the status-quo – allowing all of them to operate anywhere within the city. The city and the haulers also discussed many options, such as dividing the city into zones, one for each hauler; and the possibility of just two zones for just two haulers.
Finally, the haulers said if the city would be divvied up into zones, they would just as well prefer one hauler only to the zones idea. The city then called for quotes for a one-hauler solution and a two-hauler solution. The latter bid came in as more expensive. The public-works committee then decided to recommend a one-hauler policy, and a public meeting was called. At a well-attended hearing, all of the data and results of negotiations were revealed to the audience. Those present expressed satisfaction a one-hauler policy would greatly reduce their garbage pick-up costs. Ross said everyone was surprised at the lower costs and how efficient the one-hauler system proved to be.
Before the one-hauler policy, Sauk Rapids residents were paying a wide range of costs for garbage ranging from as low as $9 to as high as close to $40, depending on a variety of factors, including how much garbage residents wanted hauled off on a regular basis.
Olson said the old familiar complaints from residents (dust, noise, safety fears) are never heard anymore, now the one-hauler system is in place. He said he has heard nothing but positive comments about the change.
The change has also made the Sauk Rapids Street Department happy, Olson noted, because during snow plowing there aren’t any garbage cans to maneuver around on days of the week other than pick-up Tuesdays.
Olson also praised Republic Services for being more than willing to work out any individual problems or needs residents might experience.
How it works
Republic Services picks up residential garbage Tuesdays throughout Sauk Rapids, and it also picks up recyclables every other week from residents who opt for that service.
Republic allows residents to do single-sort recycling, meaning they can throw all sorts of recyclables (cans, paper, glass) into one recycling cart, and Republic later separates the types of recyclables.
Republic’s current pick-up options and costs per month for Sauk Rapids are the following:
30-gallon cart: $6.45.
60-gallon cart: $7.45.
90-gallon cart: $8.45.
30-gallon cart every other week: $6.
60-gallon recycling cart: $5.
Republic’s contract with the city allows residents to opt for suspend-collection service during times of extended absences from their homes.
The city council recently unanimously approved a renewal of the contract with Republic Services for seven years. The cost for a 30-gallon cart is guaranteed not to increase more than $1 during the life of that contract – from $6.45 to $7.23.
There are currently four waste haulers operating in Sartell: Advanced Disposal, Republic Services (formerly Allied Waste Services), Waste Management and West Central Sanitation.
After Olson’s presentation, Sartell City Council members had a lengthy discussion about the subject.
Mayor Joe Perske said noise and safety concerns have always been voiced when it comes to garbage hauling. Wear-and-tear on roads has also been an ongoing concern, said Sartell Administrator Mary Degiovanni, although there is not definite data on wear-and-tear caused just by garbage trucks, Sartell City Engineer Mike Nielson added. The extent of damage to roads would depend upon how thickly the roads are built, he noted. Council member David Peterson then said it’s a fact garbage trucks turning in culs-de-sac can cause road damage worse than on straight roads because of the weight loads shifting on tires as the truck turns.
Council members Steve Hennes and Amy Braig-Lindstrom said they are in favor of a one-hauler policy.
Hennes said three haulers go past his house, one of them typically driving at an excessive speed.
“I’ve been in favor (of a one-hauler policy) for seven years,” he said.
Council member Sarah Jane Nicoll said she opposes a one-hauler option.
“I’m not in favor,” she said. “I’m in favor of free enterprise.”
What, she said, will happen down the road if the one hauler’s prices skyrocket when, in the meantime, competition has been driven out, especially if so many cities go with the same hauler?
Olson said that has always been a concern with people, but in his research, he said he learned most haulers have no problem with driving long distances to customers, such as a Willmar company he called. That company, which is a local company, has hauling contracts throughout Minnesota. Another company, one in Texas, is willing to haul even in the Upper Midwest and has constructed buildings in which to store its trucks in other states.
Braig-Lindstrom suggested the Sartell city attorney outline the steps it will require for the city to adopt a one-hauler policy. The council agreed a Collections Options Committee should be formed to recommend action to the council.