Trash haulers, St. Paul have tentative deal to consolidate pickup

A garbage bin in St. Paul.
A garbage bin on St. Paul's west side Thursday, June 2, 2016.
Jon Gordon for MPR News 2016

The city of St. Paul has negotiated a deal with trash haulers to create organized city trash collection as soon as next fall.

Under the proposed deal, which will be considered by the St. Paul City Council on Wednesday, the 15 already-licensed haulers will join together to form a corporation that will sign a single contract for trash collection with the city.

In St. Paul, residents have traditionally contracted separately with individual trash haulers. That led to complaints about inconsistent cost, customer service problems and disruption caused by multiple companies picking up trash on the same block.

St. Paul recycling and solid waste manager Kris Hageman said staff met with haulers about 50 times since August 2016 to come to the deal.

The plan would allocate one hauler to each city block. Trash service would also automatically include pickup of two or three bulky items like mattresses or tires each year, which Hageman said would lead to less illegal dumping.

"Everyone will have the ability to talk to their own hauler directly," Hageman said. "That was a big piece, we heard that from the community early on. They were very nervous about losing contact with their hauler to address issues or get questions answered."

The contract would establish minimum customer service standards for haulers. There would also be penalties for haulers that don't meet expectations, including missed or incomplete routes.

"We have worked very hard to establish high quality customer service that goes everywhere from the time they need to answer the phone and respond to complaints and issues to consistent billing practices and such," Hageman said.

The estimates of monthly total costs for collection, including administrative service fees would range from $22.33 a month to $36.20, depending on the size of the trash cart and frequency of pickup. Customers can also add services like the pickup of yard waste or an extra cart for additional fees. But the costs may change slightly by next year.

"We feel we have good, stable, uniform and reasonable rates for the community as a whole," Hageman said.

The program will be evaluated each year, according to city environmental policy director Anne Hunt, based on the price of fuel, disposal costs and changes that have been made in the law.

"The city is going to own the carts, we're going to purchase carts, but the haulers will be in charge of maintaining them, so if a wheel falls off or a squirrel falls through the lid, they'll have to (fix them)," Hunt said.

Rollout of the new service is expected to go more smoothly than last year's recycling program, Hunt said. And if the city isn't ready to start then, the program will be pushed back to April 2019.

The council will vote on the contract on Nov. 8. City staff will plan between now and September. Collection could begin by Oct. 1, 2018.

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