MN Supreme Court: St. Paul still owes trash haulers no matter Nov. 5 vote

Banners read "vote no."
Banners that read "vote no" are seen at a community event Monday night in St. Paul to encourage residents to vote against the city's trash collection referendum on the upcoming Nov. 5 election ballot.
Nina Moini | MPR News

St. Paul still has contractual obligations to garbage haulers, even if voters reject the hauling system in a referendum next month, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The opinion fleshes out an earlier decision that put the city’s recently-enacted organized collection system before voters — after the City Council rejected a valid petition for a referendum.

The added legal detail issued Wednesday could mean that some $27 million in garbage bills may be shifted over to property taxes should citizens vote Nov. 5 to end the current city-run system.

Council members in 2017 approved a plan for coordinated trash collection after years of debate and study over the city's longstanding private hauler system, where individual homeowners contracted with private haulers for carts and garbage services. The system took effect last year, superseding the longstanding open market system.

Opponents successfully sued to put one of the key pieces of that plan on this fall’s ballot, but a decision authored by Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said there were other ordinances on the books that may keep the system in place.

The city’s organized zone collection has been praised by some for reducing costs and truck traffic, but opposed by others who say the system doesn’t allow neighbors to share service, or find alternatives, like a so-called “zero waste” lifestyle.