They’re talkin’ trash in Bloomington.
Passions are running high as Minnesota’s fourth-largest city considers turning its garbage collection over to a single hauler. Currently, seven trash haulers are licensed by the city. With different trucks for trash, recycling and other waste, residents report as many as 27 garbage trucks coming down their streets on the weekly pickup day.
The city’s proposal would turn over trash pickup to a consortium of the current seven haulers, splitting the pie based on the market share each one has now. By going to a single hauler, Bloomington hopes to reduce noise, cut down on emissions, improve safety and minimize wear on its roads. The city also says that its plan will be cheaper for the average household.
But try telling that to residents who have voiced strong objections in letters, phone calls and e-mails. At a City Council meeting last week, council members were given a packet with more than 300 citizen comments about garbage. By nearly 2-1, they trashed the single-hauler plan, often vehemently.
“Another government power grab in order to dictate behavior!” wrote Ed Hafemann. “Middle class and fed up with GOVERNMENT taking away my money and taking away my CHOICE to choose the best economic choice for me!!!!!!!” wrote Jeanne Benick.
Those in favor most often cited the need to cut down on the number of trucks in the neighborhoods.
“Every Thursday morning my normally serene suburban home life is shattered by a steady caravan of heavy trucks,” wrote John Zimmerman. “Air brakes squeal, backup alarms chirp, and I lose track after the tenth truck has rolled through.”
The city still is negotiating with the seven haulers, but the most recent proposal would cost the average household $18.42 a month for trash and recycling pickup, said Public Works Director Karl Keel. Currently, Bloomington’s 26,000 households pay an average of $26.72 a month. Keel estimated that city residents would save about $13 million over a five-year hauling contract.
Many residents have pointed out that by negotiating with different haulers, they’ve been able to get extremely low rates. Council Member Tim Busse was skeptical of some claims.
“I’d like to meet the residents who are getting their trash [picked up] for 10 bucks a month,” Busse said. “I want to take you with me the next time I buy a car. That’s some pretty good negotiating.”
In the end, the council voted 6-1 to continue negotiating the single-hauler deal, with only Cynthia Bemis Abrams opposing. A public hearing will be held before a final decision is made.
Immediately after the vote, city resident Ray Hudson jumped up and accosted the council.
“You, in your immense brilliancy, have just chosen to take my choice away,” he said heatedly.
“We’re moving in that direction,” replied Mayor Gene Winstead.