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By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
During the July 27 Ste. Genevieve Board of Aldermen work session, the issue of trash haulers sparked plenty of debate.
Currently, residents are free to contract with whichever services they want. Republic, Freedom Waste (owned by Waste Management), Woody’s and Top Tier are all providing service in the city.
The board has been concerned for sometime – as have other entities such as the city of Bloomsdale – with the effect so many big trucks roaming the city streets have on the infrastructure. The idea of contracting all city trash services with one company and adding the charge onto each resident’s water bill is again being considered.
City Administrator Happy Welch said that if the city does implement such a plan, it should only cover individual homes, duplexes and four-family units. Anything bigger should remain as is, he said.
“I would highly recommend, of all the cities I’ve experienced and the ones I know of, they always go residential, up to four-family [dwellings], that’s it,” he said. “You don’t want to get into commercial because it becomes very convoluted.”
Welch also listed the disadvantages of contracting with one hauler.
“Everybody has to be part of it,” he said. “You can’t say no. You have to base that number on what’s going to go to the contractor. They have to know what they’re going to anticipate receiving.
“Individual home owners don’t have a choice; again, they have to be part of it.”s
He noted that whomever the city would decide to contract with must have sufficient equipment and personnel to do the job efficiently.
He said a survey had been taken, but that it was “somewhat contradictive.
All the questions about having a single trash collector received very positive responses but one, Welch said.
“’Should we restrict your choice of who hauls your trash?’ and it was overwhelmingly ‘No,’” Welch said.
“You can’t have both,” he said. In the past, he said, that mixed survey led to the issue being dropped.
Ward 4 Alderman Mike Raney said that the small number of people taking the survey (fewer than 50 people) did not necessarily give an accurate reflection of residents’ opinions on the subject.
“The thing that scares me most is the consolidation that has happened,” Ward 2 Alderman Bob Donovan said. “We’ve now got two more ne companies and it seems like they’re ere for a while and somebody buys them out, one of the big companies come in. I like the new smaller guys because of the smaller trucks and less weight.”
Raney asked what the procedure would be to move forward.
Welch said an RFP (request for proposals) would need to be sent out to hire one. Then the current providers would have to be given a two-year notice of the action.
Raney said he saw “problems on the horizon” if the board makes a decision without getting further public input, since fewer than 50 of the about 2,000 customers were heard from.
Ward 4 Alderman Joe Prince said that when he dealt with a contracted trash situation in Clayton, they had “humongous problems.”
“They didn’t pick up, they didn’t do this, they didn’t do that,” he said. “Their rates did not stay competitive. You had your smaller companies come in, in surrounding areas, charging significantly less to the residents there. But yet, because of where they lived, they had to contract with the city.”
He said he was against “any more government interference.”
“It should be up to the private individual to hire who they want,” Prince said.
He also said the board never followed through in trying to get the current companies to use smaller trucks.
Right now, the advent of ore trash providers has driven prices down.
Price added that he has switched “to one of the smaller companies” and is paying 1/3 of what he used to pay.
“I’m sure the city is going to get a deal,” he said “but it will probably be more than what I’m paying now. That should be my choice, not the city’s.”
Donovan agreed that it would “take the competitiveness out” if the city relegates all the trash collecting to one company.
“If we’re trying to keep big trucks off the street, we could regulate what size trucks these companies are using,” Prince said. He added that other cities have done this and that two of the current firms use smaller garbage trucks.
“I don’t understand how you don’t think it’s competitive when we’re putting it out for bid for all trash haulers to bid on this contract,” Ward 3 Alderman Joe Steiger said.
“Maybe the smaller companies aren’t big enough to handle the entire city,” Prince replied, “so that’s going to raise my rate.”
“Because we have one big company that controls their costs from transfer port,” Donovan said. “They can control their ports and almost put tem out of business if they wanted.”
“And then that would force the smaller companies to buy the bigger trucks, which we’re trying to get rid of,” Prince said. “I’m all for less government and I don’t think this is an area the government – us – should be involved in making personal choices for people.”
“I agree with that,” said Ward 2 Alderman Eric Bennett,” except that it’s our property that’s being affected. It’s our streets that we’re tearing up.
Raney said that, while he doesn’t personally like the idea, the survey indicates that residents are in favor of the move.
“We’ve got data right in front of us,” he said.
Donovan asked Welch about his experience in contracting with a single company. Welch said that
Pevely, Festus and Harrisonville all did so, but that they had all instituted the arrangement before he got there.
He said it is usually a 3-5-year contract.
“I think with our current structure we have here, with the companies, I’m going to agree with Alderman Prince; I’m against this,” Donovan said.
Prince addressed the survey issue. He said that by far the biggest margin on any question was of whether they minded being restricted to one company. He said 41 voted no and 10 yes.
“So, that to me, wipes out all the other questions that were asked,” He said.
“But it doesn’t,” Steiger said, “because they answered those questions in the earlier part.”
“But they’re closer in answers,” Prince said, referring to the other questions.
“You have some people that are interested,” Steiger said. “We can’t argue that. There are some people that are interested.”
The actual survey responses were: No. 1. Should the City of Ste. Genevieve contract for trash services? Yes 29, No 22; No. 2. Should the City of Ste. Genevieve restrict your choice of a trash service company? Yes 10, No 41; No. 3. Should the City of Ste. Genevieve make trash service mandatory of 1 and 2 family dwellings if the City contracts for it? Yes 23; No 29; No. 4 Should the City of Ste. Genevieve offer recycling, yard waste and bulk item pick up as part of a trash haul service? Yes 41, No 10.
Steiger asked Welch why a resident could not “opt out” of dealing with the specified provider.
Welch said a clear number of customers must be available to solicit bids.
“You have to have real solid numbers for the trash company to know what they can anticipate as correct,” he said.
Raney suggested having an agenda item at a later meeting and attempting to get public feedback on the issue.
“I think the survey is a good way to get the public opinion,” Welch said. “How many people are you going to be able to talk to in the next couple of weeks? Will you get 50 responses from people? Maybe.”
He said they paid for the survey (with surveymonkeycom) to find out how residents felt about it.
Welch hit on the issue’s sticking point.
“I think what people would like is for the city to contract [with one provider] and then they’d decide if they wanted to sign up with you or not. And I don’t think that’s how you can do this.”
The board also discussed having a texting notice service set up. Quotes were received from two companies providing the service. TextCaster cost the city $4,000 in 2020, the last year that such a system was used here. Code Red gave a $4,600 a year quote – less in a five-year package.
Welch said only certain individuals would be able to send out notices.
“What I want to make sure is it’s assessable by phone and easy to put something together if you’re out the job site and you have a problem occur tat they could do that easily TextCaster just didn’t seem to have kind of ease.”
Welch said the issue could be discussed during the budget process.
They also agreed to remove one parking space on Jefferson Street, by the Valle Desert.