St. Paul residents will Yes or No Tuesday on whether a city ordinance that established the year-old system of organized trash collection will continue.
If voters approve the ordinance, the plan is expected to continue unchanged, with property owners billed by their hauler every three months. If voters say no, the city’s contract with haulers will continue — city leaders say it is unaffected by the vote — but with the cost transferred to property taxes.
The ongoing battle continues creating plenty of confusion among residents about what will happen with this basic city service. Here are answers to some common questions.
What’s the dispute about?
In 2017, the City Council approved a five-year contract with a consortium of private haulers, standardizing rates, pickup days and neighborhood assignments for 73,000 households in single-family homes to fourplexes. It’s a dramatic shift for a city that for generations left property owners in charge of getting rid of garbage. The new system rolled out Oct. 1, 2018, and, immediately, thousands of residents objected.
Some object because they’re paying more, some because they can no longer share carts with neighbors, some because the plan doesn’t offer enough price flexibility for producing scant waste. Last year, more than 6,400 people signed a petition demanding the ordinance be put to a public vote. The City Council refused, saying it would breach the contract with haulers but the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled a vote must be held. The court also ruled that a vote wouldn’t cancel the contract.
So, what happens after Nov. 5?
If voters reject the ordinance, which establishes how the plan is paid for, officials say St. Paul will still have to pay for the remaining four years of the contract. Mayor Melvin Carter and several City Council members say they’ll raise property taxes. Plan opponents dispute that, saying a no vote would trigger a clause in the contract that cancels the agreement. Even if it doesn’t, they say, a no vote could compel haulers to renegotiate a better deal for St. Paul. Plan supporters disagree, saying the city has a better chance to improve an existing ordinance than start over.
Will my trash still be picked up?
Yes. City officials say organized trash collection will continue no matter the results of Tuesday’s vote. The main question will be how the bill gets paid.
Do I have to find my own hauler?
No. City officials say the contract keeps its system of assigned haulers and neighborhoods intact — even if voters repeal the ordinance.
If the ordinance is repealed, will my costs go down?
For some properties, yes. The cost of the plan, which affects more than 70,000 households from single family homes to fourplexes, would be spread out among all property taxpayers in St. Paul. While some individual property owners would pay less, business owners, owners of larger apartment buildings and some condominium associations could pay significantly more, since they in effect are paying twice for trash — both their own and the citywide plan.