A citizens' revolt is brewing in Bloomington over garbage collection.

Some angry residents want to take decisions on trash hauling out of the City Council's hands. Residents are circulating petitions for both an initiative and a referendum that would allow citizens — rather than their elected officials — to have the final say on the issue.

Nearly 100 residents testified for more than three hours at a public hearing on trash hauling Monday night. The city is proposing to implement a system of "organized collection." In essence, the seven private haulers now licensed to do business in the city would carve up the territory and charge a single negotiated rate.

The plan has been in the works for nearly three years, but after hearing from dozens of residents, the City Council ordered the city staff to come back with answers to some of the questions raised. The issue will come up for a discussion and a possible final vote at the council's June 22 meeting.

Many opponents of the plan raised fundamental questions about relations between the public and private sectors.

"You guys are never held to the same standard that the private sector is," said Kevin Anderson, a 25-year Bloomington resident, to the council. "The private sector has the gumption … to look you right in the eyeballs, and to make certain that they're providing that service to their constituents."

Others preferred the freedom to negotiate their own contracts with haulers.

"I've been playing the garbage game for 15 years," said Rachel Keller, a resident for 31 years. "Somebody comes to my door, 'Is your two-year contract up?' It sure is. I'll go to you, you're cheaper.

"I don't mind playing the game," she said. "If it's not broke, don't fix it."

Supporters of the city's proposal cited the noise and chaos of having seven different trash haulers operating at once.

"Last Thursday, I counted 15 trucks from different haulers rushing up and down our street," said Jim Ferber, a resident for 40 years.

Others pointed to the cost savings projected by the city, which add up to more than $8 a month for the average household.

"That will save the average person $103 a year," said resident Greg Thompson. "Given the choice between choosing the color of the [garbage] bin and the name on the side of the truck, and saving 103 bucks, I choose the 103 bucks."

City residents last week received a mailing from Garbage Haulers for Political Choice, an industry group opposed to organized collection. That didn't sit well with Council Member Andrew Carlson.

"What concerns me is, [the haulers] are negotiating in good faith — but at the same time, actively engaged with an organization whose purpose is to oppose organized collection. That doesn't square up well with me," Carlson said.

John Reinan • 612-673-7402