St. Paul residents irked by new trash collection plan

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A switch to a new garbage collection plan is frustrating City of St. Paul residents, who have bombarded the public works office with roughly 1,500 calls about the issue.

“Eighty percent are questions, 20 percent are complaints,” said St. Paul Public Works spokeswoman Lisa Hiebert.

While the city maintains this is a great way to manage garbage and reduce pollution, some residents say it just doesn't pass the smell test. 

“We’re actually going to have the exact same haulers take our garbage away, it’s just going to cost us 160 percent more,” said Joshua Bau, a St. Paul resident.

Bau had quite the reaction when he got the postcard notification from the City of St. Paul.

“I cursed, and after that I went and called the Mayor’s office,” said Bau.

Now, he and all city property owners will have to switch to the citywide garbage collection plan and only have until June 1 to pick a cart size and eat any additional fees. For Bau, it means he’s going to pay $34 a month instead of his current rate - only $13 a month.

“If I could negotiate a better deal than this, why couldn't the city?” said Bau.

Property owners’ bargaining power with haulers is void under the new ordinance.

“For some people the prices will go up, but for some people the prices are going down and they’re getting additional services,” said Lisa Hiebert of St. Paul Public Works.

Those "extras" include the removal of two to three bulk items per year. 

“That doesn’t help me!" said Bau. "I live on the east side where those items don’t last 20 minutes on my front lawn."

The new five-year citywide garbage contract is with 11 licensed haulers. Bobby Stewart runs Highland Sanitation and Recycling, one of the hauling companies included in the deal. He says the contract has both pros and cons.

“The biggest thing we lose in the long run is our ability to grow in St. Paul,” said Stewart. Now, we don’t have the ability to grow our market share if I want to.”

Stewart also senses the new deal could impact the quality of service.

“When there’s no reason to do those extra little things that your competition doesn't, you’re not going to do that because it hurts your bottom line,” said Stewart. “At that point, it just costs you efficiency.”

For Bau, those concerns only add to a pile of worries – worries he’d rather trash. 

“This is something that I wish I would’ve had a say in, especially [after] property taxes went up 31 percent this year, too,” said Bau. “So, it just keeps adding up and wages aren't adding up in St. Paul.”

Additionally, a $24.60 fee will be added to residents’ Ramsey County property tax statement to help cover the cost of garbage carts, outreach and program administration.

If St. Paul property owners don't return the postcard, the city will pick their garbage cart size for them, and set their rate at $32 a month to start.