Closing the lid on organized trash collection

Roseville votes not to pursue issue at future meetings

The sometimes divisive issue of organized trash collection in Roseville has simmered down for the time being, nearly two years after residents turned out in droves to voice their opinions on both sides of the matter.

Under an organized collection system, trash collection service is coordinated by a public entity, instead of residents choosing their own hauler. Roseville residents can currently choose to do business with one of 12 city-licensed haulers.

In November 2013, the Roseville City Council held a public hearing on the topic, and scores of residents spoke out about establishing an organized collection system. At that time, the council opted to conduct a community survey to more accurately gauge residents’ thoughts on the matter before moving forward with a decision.

The council has known the results of that survey for about a year, and at its April 20 meeting reaffirmed its stance to not pursue or discuss organized trash collection at a future meeting.

Future discussion to immediate action

The agenda for the council’s April 20 meeting showed the council would consider adding a discussion about organized trash collection to the upcoming June 8 meeting agenda, a topic council member Tammy McGehee had requested.

However, at the beginning of the meeting, the council voted to move the item from the “councilmember initiated items for future meetings” section to the “business items/action items” section per a motion by council member Lisa Laliberte.

Later, when discussing the topic, Laliberte questioned why it had been brought before the council again even though organized trash collection was not identified as a council priority for 2015.

McGehee said a changing dynamic in surrounding communities and new information about road pavement delamination had prompted her to ask that the council discuss it again.

Council member Bob Willmus said he did not wish to pursue organized garbage collection until a majority of residents were in favor of it.

“It’s still at the threshold where people are not interested in abandoning the system that is currently in place,” he said.

Mayor Dan Roe echoed a similar sentiment, adding, “I’m not supportive of taking up organized collection at this time because I don’t think anything has changed since our last discussion.”

After some discussion, the council voted 3-2 (with McGehee and council member Jason Etten opposed) to not pursue organized collection or place the item on a future meeting agenda.

However, the council did vote unanimously to direct staff to gather information for residents on how they could self-organize trash collection on their block, perhaps using information from the cities of Chaska and Chanhassen as a model.

Not an issue in many neighborhoods

Of the heads of the city’s three official neighborhood associations, only Gary Grefenberg, coordinator of the SouthWest Area of Roseville Neighborhoods, said he had heard much of anything from his neighbors about the issue.

“There’s a small group of neighbors in my neighborhood ... who are very strongly for it,” he said. “And then there’s the other end of the spectrum ... who think it’s the coming of the Antichrist, almost.”

However, he added, the majority of residents are “not involved with the issue.”

“By far, most people I’ve talked to just don’t know what’s wrong with the current system,” he explained. “I don’t see any strong public opinion in favor of it ... at the same time, there’s not an overwhelming opposition to it.”

Lisa McCormick, president of the Twin Lakes Neighborhood Association, told the Review she hadn’t heard anything from her neighbors about the issue recently, a similar sentiment to that of Lake McCarrons Neighborhood Association co-chair Sherry Sanders.

Grefenberg, also a member of the city’s Community Engagement Commission, said he agreed with the council’s decision to not take up organized collection right now because many residents don’t understand the issue.

“I personally think that it’s premature for the council to take action at this time because it’s not clear to most residents,” he said, adding he wished a “non-partisan group” would hold an educational forum about organized collection.

In 2011 when the city most recently began considering organized collection, the currently inactive Roseville Citizens League held a community forum on the issue with representatives both for and against an organized system. City officials from North St. Paul and Little Canada, which both have organized collection, and a representative from the Minnesota Chapter of the National Solid Wastes Management Association presented information and answered questions at the forum, which was moderated by a local arbitration and mediation lawyer.

LWV weighs in

June Stewart, president of the Roseville-Maplewood-Falcon Heights chapter of the League of Women Voters, made an appearance at the May 4 city council meeting to express her dissatisfaction with how the council had handled its discussion of the topic at the April 20 meeting.

Because the item was not originally included on the agenda as an action item, she says residents may not have known a decision about organized collection was going to be made that night.

“There were things that concerned me just from a good government viewpoint, because they had actually mentioned there were no members of the public in the audience that night,” she told the Review.

“Representative government should always err on the side of more input from their constituents, no matter how annoying it is,” she added. “So what we’re really concerned about now is that this seemed to have been rushed through.”

The LWV has supported organized trash collection since 1985, she said, citing environmental benefits and reducing wear and tear on streets. A Roseville resident herself, Stewart said she penned a letter representing the 100-member League’s position to the council in February and has yet to hear back.

She pointed to a June 2012 recommendation from the city’s Public Works, Environment and Transportation Commission that the council support organized collection as another reason why the city council should have established an organized collection system, or at least discussed the possibility.

“It’s now ... 2015,” she said. “We urge the council to move ahead with organized trash collection.”

Stewart added that she did not think the community survey question about organized collection presented all the available options, like if the city chose to divvy up collection into zones for each hauler based on the number of residents currently served.

Above all, Stewart said, “I just think constituents should be heard and [be] given a chance to be heard.”

Resource recovery

Garbage is a hot topic in Ramsey County right now, as the county considers a joint purchase of the Newport Waste Processing Facility with Washington County.

The Newport facility is currently operated by Resource Recovery Technologies, a privately held company. The counties currently contract with RRT to prepare waste to be burned for energy at other facilities in the state, and have said they could potentially save money over time if the counties purchase the site along U.S. Highway 61 instead of contracting for service.

The Ramsey/Washington County Resource Recovery Project Board, made up of commissioners from both counties, held a series of open houses over the past month to hear from residents about the proposed purchase. The vote is expected to take place on May 28.

Eureka Recycling, which provides service in Roseville and Lauderdale, has strongly opposed the purchase, saying the counties should instead invest in recycling initiatives.

For more information about the Ramsey/Washington County Resource Recovery Project, visit www.morevaluelesstrash.com.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.


Community survey results

In April 2014, the Morris Leatherman Company conducted a phone survey of 400 random Roseville residents, the results of which were presented to the city on May 14, 2014. The survey asked residents a number of questions on different Roseville-specific topics, including the following two regarding organized trash collection.

“Would you favor or oppose the city of Roseville changing from the current system in which residents may choose from several different haulers to a system where the city chooses a specific hauler for the whole community?”
• 6 percent strongly favored; 30 percent favored
• 13 percent strongly opposed; 33 percent opposed
• 19 percent did not answer

The 325 people who responded to that question were asked the following:
“Could you tell me one or two reasons for your decision?”
• 52 percent wanted the choice
• 9 percent cited the lower cost of an open system; 13 percent cited the lower cost of an organized system
• 21 percent said there would be less traffic with an organized system
• 3 percent said organized collection would be safer
• 1 percent said they liked their current hauler

The survey also asked residents to rate the city’s recycling program, which is organized through Eurkeka.
26 percent responded “excellent”; 63 percent “good”; and 4 percent “only fair.” None said the program was “poor.”


St. Anthony gets organized

State legislation authored by Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, and passed in 2013 eases the process for cities wishing to switch to an organized trash collection by providing a set of steps they must take after deciding to organize.

The law allows municipalities to work with multiple garbage haulers to preserve their market shares by dividing the city into zones. The law also limits the length of negotiation time between cities and haulers to 60 days.

Nearby St. Anthony Village was the first city to approve organized collection after the law took effect.

St. Anthony switched to an organized trash collection system on April 1 of this year. St. Anthony’s three licensed haulers were divided into separate zones based on the number of residents served, maintaining their existing market shares. Residents now pay a fixed rate—which was negotiated by the city and haulers—no matter which hauler provides their service.

St. Anthony city officials and proponents of organized collection cited benefits that closely aligned with those found in a 2012 Minnesota Pollution Control Agency study presenting the economic and environmental benefits of organized collection.

The MPCA report found that residents in Minnesota cities with organized collection could save roughly $100 per year on their garbage bills, and stated that at a city level, “nearly 86 percent of the road wear in alleys and 8 percent of the road wear in high traffic areas is due to garbage trucks.”

 

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