Trash haulers who are negotiating with St. Paul to divvy up waste collection responsibilities across the city have until March 21 to craft a proposal city officials can get behind.
After decades of having residents hire their own haulers, St. Paul is moving to an organized collection system. But whether trash companies will handle the pick up as a collaborative or if one company will be responsible for all collection remains to be seen.
A group of 15 haulers has been meeting with St. Paul staff for months and presented two proposals so far, neither of which met all the city's requirements, staff told City Council members Wednesday.
"We feel we've made good progress," Environmental Policy Director Anne Hunt said. However, "we want to see one more proposal."
The cost proposed by the haulers is still too high, and several sticking points remain around labor issues, billing and contracting, St. Paul Environmental Coordinator Kris Hageman said.
Jim Berquist, president of local hauler Ken Berquist & Son, said meetings with the city and haulers have been productive. But he said the city wants very low prices and doesn't fully understand the hauling business.
"We are hoping we can negotiate a contract that can work as well for them as for us," Berquist said.
If St. Paul officials accept the haulers' next plan, a city timeline shows the new system could be in place by summer 2018.
But if they reject the next proposal, the City Council would create a committee to review options and send out a request for proposals. A single hauler or groups of haulers could submit bids, and a winner would be chosen to begin service in spring 2019.
If the city goes the second route, Berquist, who does almost all of his hauling in St. Paul, said he and other small owners could be out of business.
City officials said they want to avoid a winter roll out of the program given the problematic start to the new recycling program, which debuted last month. Icy alleys were one of many issues that prevented recycling from being collected.
The move to organized trash collection has been a controversial decision in St. Paul.
Many people say the current pick-your-hauler process, which results in trucks crisscrossing the city, is inefficient, confusing and bad for the environment and city roads. Others say they like being able to choose who picks up their trash and having the option of selecting a new hauler if the old one doesn't work out.