City to decide waste contract Monday

One man’s trash...

MARQUETTE — The Marquette City Commission on Monday will vote on garbage collection contracts that will impact waste and recycling collection in the city for the next seven to 10 years, as well as, potentially, county-wide recycling.

The decision comes down to bags, carts or both — with added complications over the city’s participation in the Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority’s recycling program.

Costs for garbage and recycling services are passed directly to residents through utility fees. City residents now use the green bag system through Waste Management, which, for one bag per week, costs about $270 per household per year, according to city documents.

Three bidders responded to the city’s request for proposals on a number of waste collection contracts, including residential curbside pick-up. The bidders were Waste Management, a global Texas-based company with facilities in Marquette; North Country Disposal of Marquette; and Eagle Waste of Eagle River, Wisconsin.

For residential pick-up — considering the average annual cost to the customer over the life of the contracts — Eagle Waste’s 10-year carted system is the least expensive bid at $130 per year.

Waste Management’s carted seven-year proposal would cost $153 per year and its seven-year green bag proposal would cost $164, including the cost of one bag per week.

City Manager Mike Angeli said he can’t be certain why the proposed rates for Waste Management came down so much from the current price.

But “I’m sure the competition had something to do with it,” he said.

After divided reactions from the commission at a work session last month, Angeli said city staff is recommending the commission award the contract to Waste Management, combining the seven-year bag and cart proposals and allowing residents to use carts and bags flexibly.

This is for a number of reasons, Angeli said.

“First of all, … the community seems divided, from our research, as to bags or carts. This particular option allows them the flexibility of choosing one or the other,” Angeli said. “And even though it’s not necessarily as inexpensive or cheap as the Eagle Waste proposal, it’s still cheaper than the previous rates we’ve been paying.”

Also of importance to the commission and the region, Angeli said it “keeps us fully engaged in the landfill recycling program.”

The Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority processes recycling for 22 municipalities in the county, with the city of Marquette constituting over half of its recycling program. The county landfill uses a dual-stream recycling program, which requires separating “rigids” from “fibers.”

If Eagle Waste is awarded the contract, they would provide single-stream recycling, in which all recycling is collected together and sorted at a facility.

This means Eagle Waste would be hauling Marquette’s recycling to its own processing plant in Wisconsin, and the county landfill’s recycling program would essentially be cut in half.

MCSWMA Board Chairman Randall Yelle said this loss would have a significant impact on the recycling program’s revenue, and it has to support itself.

“If we find after a period of time without that 52 percent (from the city of Marquette) that it’s not supporting itself, we would readjust the program,” Yelle said.

There are costs and benefits associated with both single- and dual-stream, Yelle said, but dual-stream increases the value of the recycled material because it decreases the amount of fiber material — which is the most valuable — that gets contaminated by food.

Eagle Waste owner Alan Albee said they would prefer to haul and process recycling locally rather than transport it to Eagle RIver, but they are committed to single-stream recycling, because it is cheaper to collect and increases participation in the program.

“If the county solid waste authority wanted to sort single-stream on a municipal level, we would provide the material to them. The cost of us to haul it to Eagle River far exceeds any value the material has, so it would be preferable for us to haul it locally. There’s just no where locally to haul it,” Albee said. “Our long-term plan is to develop a facility to sort it here (in the Marquette area), or we’d be happy to provide it to someone else or work in cooperation with someone else.”

Yelle said earlier this week that Eagle Waste had not approached the MCSWMA regarding that issue.

Yelle said the MCSWMA was planning to expand its operations to create a single-stream recycling program for its commercial districts, but it will require significant investment in personnel and equipment.

In a letter to the city commission, MCSWMA Director of Operations Brad Austin said the city of Marquette along with Sands Township are the founding fathers of the county’s recycling facility.

“It is paramount that the City of Marquette is a part of the future recycling efforts of the Authority,” Austin writes. “I look forward to working with the City of Marquette in the future.”

Mark Harrick, Waste Management’s public sector solutions manager for the Upper Peninsula, said Waste Management is excited to work with the city and give city residents a choice.

He said the bag system was the cheapest bid — which is true if the cost of the bags is not included.

“They (city officials) weren’t sure if they wanted to go away from bags or did they want to give residents a choice,” Harrick said. “And so we were really excited that we were able to give them a price for bags only, bags and carts, and just the cart price. And so by keeping all the jobs on Baraga (Avenue), we were really excited about the opportunity to work with the city and feel real strongly about our bid about giving the residents a choice.”

Waste Management’s facility is located on Baraga within the city and employs 13 people.

Albee said Eagle Waste would also hire locally and eventually build a facility in the area.

The city commission Monday will also vote on the other waste collection contracts.

For the city facility contract, including collection at parks and campgrounds, the recommendation of staff is to go with low bidder North Country Disposal.

For rubbish drop-off hauling, the low-bidder was Eagle Waste, but that bid is only valid if Eagle Waste wins the residential curbside contract. If not, the low bidder is North Country Disposal.

North Country Disposal did not respond to a request for comment.

Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is mwardell@miningjournal.net.

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