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Baxter City Council hears proposition for organized trash collection

BAXTER - Organized collection, with the city determining garbage collection, was one of the elements from a recent League of Minnesota Cities conference.

Council member Todd Holman attended the conference with multiple sessions on a wide variety of topics. One of those was a law change that streamlines the public process to adopt organized collection with city testimonials in favor of an organized collection model. Instead of multiple companies serving throughout the city, the city may contract with one hauler or divide the city into quadrants. Each quadrant would be served by a single hauler.

"My position is that the city of Baxter should pursue this conversation with public, private haulers, and all stakeholder groups for the sake of road longevity, traffic safety, cost benefits and many other considerations," Holman wrote in a report to the council.

Holman said the city of Sauk Rapids, for instance, bids for the service and has the hauler deal with any calls from customers and canister replacements.

Holman told the council during a work session before the regular meeting that he didn't have a recommendation but thought it was a priority conversation to have. A key piece, he said, comes from the city's own pavement management plan and prolonging the life of city streets. With the city determining one hauler per area or for the city in general, it ends four to five different haulers traveling with heavy vehicles over the same street on a regular basis, Holman noted. With homeowners carrying the financial burden of street reconstruction assessments, Holman said the street conservation piece was part of the discussion. In addition, he pointed to the panel discussion noting rates for garbage removal service also went down for residents in cities with organized collection.

"So there are all kinds of really good reasons for us to pursue it," Holman said.

There wasn't an overt indication how the other council members viewed the suggestion. After the meeting, Holman addressed concerns raised in previous discussions of organized collection, namely ending consumer choice over who they hire for a service, potentially curtailing private, small businesses now serving the area, and increasing the reach of government. Previously private haulers said a large national chain may be likely to win such a city bid, but should the city ever want an alternative the local, independent hauling businesses may be hard-pressed to compete for future bids should they be forced to sell expensive equipment once their customer base was reduced. They also asked if government is going to limit large trucks or delivery vehicles to one service in a community as well.

Holman said the garbage haulers have a unique impact on city streets. The city, he said, could set up requirements to give consumers choices through the bid process. One option even added a mobility segment in case a customer physically couldn't take their own container to the curb, the hauler would pick it up at the garage, Holman said.

"We need to explore it," he said. "There are a lot of compelling reasons to look into it."

RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz.

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