St. Paul leaders are pushing ahead with plans for coordinated trash collection across the city, but hope to see prices drop — and incentives to cut down on trash increase — as negotiations with garbage haulers move forward.

City staff will continue negotiations with the goal of having a system in place by summer or fall 2018.

Meanwhile, residents are still divided on giving up the current system under which they negotiate their own contracts with one of 15 trash haulers. Many agree they want fewer garbage trucks trundling through streets and less waste dumped along roads and alleys. But people are divided on how to achieve that goal and are flooding council members’ in-boxes and voice mails with mixed reviews of the tentative terms.

Some call the coordinated trash pickup plan the latest example of government overreach, while others are happy to relinquish the responsibility of choosing a waste hauler and hope the change will have greater environmental and societal benefits.

For many the debate comes down to trash service cost, which varies dramatically.

“It’s just wrong,” Council Member Chris Tolbert said of the price stratification, noting people get different rates depending on their ability to negotiate and where they live.

City staff said prices they have reached after a year of negotiations with haulers would save the average resident $35 a year. Someone with a medium-sized bin would pay $34.14 or $32.76 a month, depending on whether the city and haulers agree to a five- or seven-year contract.

Many residents, however, said they have struck far better deals without city help. Council Member Dan Bostrom questioned why nearby Maplewood and North St. Paul’s prices are less than what St. Paul is considering.

St. Paul has a variety of goals besides a low cost, Tolbert said, including keeping all the small trash companies in business. Under the proposed organized collection system the 15 companies in St. Paul would split up the city based on their market shares.

Negotiations continue

City officials said they anticipate that system will be in place by next summer or fall. In the meantime, Public Works Director Kathy Lantry said “we will sharpen our pencil” and try to trim down the $52 yearly fee that city staff planned to charge residents, which would go toward implementation and administration costs and cart replacement.

Rona Krupenny, with Krupenny & Sons Disposal Service, said haulers were surprised the city released the proposed costs and included that additional fee.

“This is not a done deal and people to need to continue to reach out to City Hall to let them know this is a bad idea,” Mike Zipko, a spokesman for First Choice St. Paul, said in a statement about organized collection. The group includes haulers and residents who oppose the change.

The council’s decision Wednesday follows a public hearing last week, where several residents said they have been able to work with neighbors to reduce trash collection costs. Under the organized system, Krupenny said customers would likely lose low-cost options, like sharing a trash cart with neighbors or getting only on-call service.

Council members asked for an option during negotiations that could help residents who generate minimal trash, many of whom are elderly and on fixed incomes. “I don’t want to create some sort of reverse incentive for folks to throw away more,” Council Member Rebecca Noecker said.