It’s hard to imagine a city getting more emotional about garbage than Bloomington has been in the past year.
As the city has considered a single-hauler system, known as “organized collection,” opponents have packed public hearings on the issue. Some citizens were moved to tears as they argued for their right to choose their own trash hauler.
And as the process finally drew to a close Monday night, emotions ran high right up until the end. Minutes before the City Council voted to approve a new trash ordinance and a hauling contract, a citizen accused Mayor Gene Winstead of being “snarky.”
“Not even close to being as snarky as you are,” Winstead replied. “Not even close.”
Shortly after that, the council voted unanimously to approve organized collection. The seven garbage haulers currently licensed to do business in the city will form a consortium, Bloomington Haulers Inc., to handle all trash collection from single-family homes in the city.
The average rate is projected to be $19.52 a month for weekly trash collection and biweekly recycling, with yard waste removal available for $79.50 a year. The contract is for five years, with an option to renew for five more.
Council members touted the environmental benefits of organized collection and said it’s being adopted by many cities nationwide.
“I think what’s happening here here is not a whole lot different than what we’re going to be seeing more of [nationally],” said Council Member Jon Oleson.
But the city is still awaiting a decision in a lawsuit that seeks to stop organized collection. Both sides argued their cases in October, and a decision is expected sometime in the next month.
The hauler contract addresses the lawsuit and allows either side to terminate the agreement if the judge rules against organized collection.
Several of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit appeared at Monday night’s meeting and asked council members detailed questions about various aspects of the hauler contract and the guidelines for organized collection. Council members answered politely, but at times their patience seemed to be wearing thin.
“We’re getting into the weeds here a little bit,” Oleson said in reply to one questioner.
The exact date the contract will take effect is uncertain. The haulers still must formally file legal documents to form their consortium. Once that’s done, a meeting will be set for the consortium and the mayor to sign the final contract.