The Shakopee City Council has directed city staff to request bids for a closed trash system after discussing the possibility of an open refuse and recycling hauling system.
The Jan. 5 discussion arrived as the contract between the city and its current trash provider, Republic Services, is set to expire at the end of this year.
A closed refuse and recycling system, which the city has been operating under since the early 1990s, means the city contracts with a singular trash and recycling provider. This help prevents illegal dumping, city officials said, and avoids a-la-carte requests for services which drive up overall costs.
An open system would mean residents would get to choose between a handful of refuse and recycling providers, which could potentially drive down costs due to the competition between providers. But the council questioned whether opening up the system would be worth the headache of having multiple trucks on the streets on any given day. Councilmembers also expressed concerns about accountability between the city, the providers and the customers.
Assistant City Administrator Nate Burkett said one frustration with the current service is the number of issues the city has to resolve related to trash pickup or billing.
Staff recommended the city consider a system in which the city is divided into zones and assigned a pick-up day. The city would then license haulers and require them to perform services in their zone on the appropriate day of the week, per the city memo.
That means the city would no longer be in the middle of the relationship between the service provider and the customer.
Council member Jay Whiting said he was opposed to the idea of opening up the refuse and recycling system.
“I have no interest in that,” Whiting said. “Do I think our assistant city administrator should be handling the garbage? No. We need somebody managing our trash… but I do not want to open the system up in any way.”
Shakopee Mayor Bill Mars ultimately pointed back to the reason the city chose to enter into a closed service agreement in the first place.
“Health and safety, it’s better for the roads, and we’re only dealing with one provider,” Mars said. “That’s why we did this in the first place.”
Although no official action was taken, council ultimately directed staff to draft a request for bids from service providers within a closed system. The council also agreed the refuse and recycling provider should designate a staffer to deal with refuse and recycling issues so the city doesn’t have to.
According to the city memo, the biggest roadblock to engaging in a new contract with a different service provider will be refuse and recycling carts, since there are both city-owned and Republic Services-owned carts scattered across Shakopee.
In 2013, the city purchased carts and took out a loan of about $1.1 million to pay for them. There is still $427,000 owed on that loan, which is anticipated to be paid off by June of 2024.
“In order to transition to another provider, all Republic carts would need to be collected, city carts would need to be consolidated and redistributed, and the new provider would have to distribute new carts,” the city memo stated.
“We’ll take it as a learning point,” Mars said. “The city should not be in the cart business.”