Shakopee's trash war flares, then ends with a whimper

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 9, 2013 - 3:00 PM

Shakopee townhouse dwellers will pay a little more and single-family homeowners a little less per month for the same service under a contract with a new garbage hauler.

Dumping the dumper wasn’t easy in Shakopee.

Amid all the turbulence of his first 18 months as mayor, Brad Tabke reports, no one ever literally called him up and yelled at him — until Trash Wars came along.

“It’s been,” he sighed, “a very interesting process.”

Last week, the suburb’s 12-year marriage with Dick’s Sanitation ended quietly. The conclusion came after a Dick’s lobbying campaign that included robocalls placed to people’s homes seeking their support.

A five-year contract for trash and recycling will instead go to Allied Waste Services, starting next year.

If Tabke downplays the yelling — “it’s hardly anyone doing that, just a tiny percentage who just want to get things riled up” — he does say that public reaction was “probably evenly split between keeping them and getting rid of them.”

The suburb stands out among Minnesota cities in having just a single, city-chosen hauler, a setup that officials over the years have proudly credited for sparing their costly streets from the crushing weight of multiple trucks.

As cities always seem to find when they try to tamper with garbage arrangements, it’s a delicate issue. The garbageman or woman, for better or worse, is a relationship in one’s life, a person who comes to your home often and can either annoy or please.

David Domack, public relations manager for Dick’s, addressed that issue as he faced the council last week.

“When we started 12 years ago, you based this process on one issue and that was service,” he said, not price. “I look back at all the things we changed, the service issues we came to fix, and [city staff have agreed] we did fix those things and we take pride in doing that.

“We feel strongly, if it’s 63 cents a home a month [a household will save from now on], I strongly feel it’s worth what we’re all about.”

It was an oblique warning that the city may well slide back into misery for having opted for cheapness rather than quality.

But Tabke isn’t having it.

“We’re talking four hundred grand over five years,” he said in an interview. “That’s 100 percent local money, directly going into the Shakopee economy,” rather than paid to a Lakeville-based firm. “I understand this hurts, but when we save that throughout our community, I’m OK with doing that.”

As for service, he said, the city did its due diligence and sees no reason to worry.

It became plain, though, that the new world the city is entering will involve some adjustments, and perhaps a set of unhappy residents.

A tiered system, different for townhouses than for other residential customers, is being heaved out with the trash, and in its place comes a more uniform pricing — meaning a hike for townhouse residents.

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