Opponents of organized trash collection in Bloomington have lost a legal battle but still could win the war. A judge tossed out their lawsuit this week but suggested that the case could be recycled.
Meanwhile, city officials said Tuesday the ruling means that it’s full speed ahead for the organized collection program, which has been strongly supported by the City Council even as hundreds of residents spoke passionately against it at public meetings.
“The judge ruled that the initiative [to kill organized collection] cannot put a limit on the council’s decisionmaking process,” City Manager Jamie Verbrugge said. “The ruling allows this new sustainable program for collecting garbage and recycling to begin.”
But there’s a different path open to the dissenters, and they said they plan to pursue it.
In his decision, Hennepin County District Judge James Moore said that the changes sought by dissenters could be achieved through an amendment to the city charter, a kind of constitution that gives the city its legal powers.
“We’ve already begun collecting signatures for a charter amendment and have made substantial progress towards the signature count needed,” said Joel Jennissen, one of five plaintiffs in the unsuccessful lawsuit.
“Ultimately, we’re working to do what it takes so that people can have a voice in this matter,” he said. “Throughout this entire process, Bloomington’s mayor and council ignored and even tried to squelch citizen input and involvement.
“On this issue, the mayor and council are prime examples of the opposite of what representative government is supposed to look and act like.”
Under organized collection, the city contracts with a single hauler for trash and recycling, rather than leaving it to residents to sign their own private hauling contracts.
Bloomington has been planning for more than two years to move to organized collection, which was unanimously approved by the City Council in December.
The seven garbage haulers currently licensed to do business in the city have formed a consortium, Bloomington Haulers Inc., to handle all trash collection from single-family homes.
The average rate is projected to be $19.52 a month for weekly trash collection and biweekly recycling. The contract is for five years, with an option to renew for five more.
City officials have said the organized system will save money for most residents, as well as cut down on pollution, wear on city streets and chaos when multiple trucks roar through neighborhoods on trash collection day.
Many city residents expressed support for the organized system. But opponents were vocal and passionate, with some residents even crying as they made their case at public hearings on the issue.