Residents to have bag, cart choice

Mark Harrick, Waste Management’s public sector solutions manager for the Upper Peninsula, answers questions about waste collection at the Marquette City Commission meeting Monday night, while City Attorney Ron Keefe, left, and Marquette Police Chief Blake Rieboldt look on.(Journal photos by Mary Wardell)

MARQUETTE — Bags or carts? Marquette city residents will have their choice when it comes to trash collection in the city this fall.

The Marquette City Commission in a 6-1 decision Monday approved a seven-year curbside residential waste and recycling contract with Waste Management, a global Texas-based company with facilities in Marquette, for optional use of bags or carts.

Costs for residents will go down, but not as far as they could have.

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.

Waste Management’s seven-year cart proposal would cost $153 per household per year and its seven-year green bag proposal would cost $164, including the cost of one bag per week. The city will combine these bids.

Green trash bags punctuate the curb along a street in south Marquette recently. The waste collection contract will continue with Waste Management, a global Texas-based company, after a Marquette City Commission decision Monday, but customers will have the option to use bags or rolling covered bins.

North Country Disposal of Marquette won contracts for waste collection for city facilities and special collections.

Eagle Waste of Eagle River, Wisconsin, was passed over for curbside residential and special collections contracts, despite offering the lowest bids. Eagle Waste’s 10-year carted residential system came in at $130 per year per household, according to city documents.

Despite Waste Management’s higher bids, commissioners cited the importance of residents’ choice, the city’s continued participation in the county’s recycling program and other reasons.

The commissioners all remarked they had received more feedback than usual on this issue, but that the public seems divided down the middle.

“They’re very passionate,” said Commissioner Mike Conley. “Some are binners, some are baggers, some want to save a little bit of money.”

Commissioner Pete Frazier cast the dissenting vote, citing his preference for bins, the lower cost and single-stream recycling.

Frazier said he’s glad Eagle Waste bid, because it lowered Waste Management’s bid.

“I too have gotten a lot of emails on the subject, and it’s been a good waste of our time in so many words,” Frazier said.

Mayor Pro-Tem Tom Baldini said the overriding theme he heard was that people want options. He said though he wasn’t on the commission, he remembers the reason the city implemented the green bag system was to incentivize less trash generation and more recycling.

Conley said bins may create hardships for people with little storage space, trouble with mobility or in severe weather.

“I want people to be able to choose for their own households, and even if somebody chose mainly a bin and that week it’s snowing hard in February and they don’t want to horse the thing out to the street, they just put everything in a bag,” Conley said.

Maintaining cooperation with the Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority was also a major factor for the majority of commissioners.

Mayor Dave Campana said he wants to see the recycling program continue for the county’s 22 participating municipalities, and if the city pulls out, it will create a financial hardship for the MCSWMA that could hurt the program.

The city of Marquette, which with Sands Township helped found the recycling program, makes up roughly half of the recyclables the county landfill processes.

Eagle Waste owner Alan Albee said they would have bid competitively on waste collection contracts throughout the region, with substantial cost savings and a more modern system. Albee said they had planned to build and hire locally, increase recycling participation, accomodate special circumstances that make bins difficult and would be interested in working with the county to develop single-stream recycling.

“I believe if all the other municipalities realized the huge savings available to them with our presence in the area, they would strongly push you to accept our bid,” Albee said.

Mark Harrick, Waste Management’s public sector solutions manager for the Upper Peninsula — after being pressed about why the bid for Waste Management was higher — said “You can always get something for cheaper, … but is it the best?”

Marquette resident Tony Ruiz said during public comment, of all the communities he’s lived in, he’s never seen a system like the green bags.

“It makes no sense to me. Everywhere else I’ve lived has the automated bins, and they’re wonderful,” Ruiz said. “I could go to my in-laws’ in a horse and buggy, but I drive a car, and that’s the way that I look at the bag system.”

Jorma Lankinen of Marquette, board member of the MCSWMA said his concern is the landfill.

“The bottom line is do not throw the landfill authority and the rest of the 21 other municipalities under the bus by having someone else take the recyclables out of this area. I urge you, however that works out, that you keep those in our community,” Lankinen said.

Frank Jeff Verito of Marquette said he preferred the bags to “big and cumbersome” bins.

“My weekly garbage takes up the amount of space as a volleyball,” Verito said.

Commissioners also said they didn’t like Eagle Waste’s advertising methods.

Conley said the ads were intended to “manipulate the political process” and, regarding claims that Eagle Waste would save the city $2 million, that “they tortured the numbers until they confessed.”

City Manager Mike Angeli said there’s no doubt Eagle’s numbers were better.

“In my opinion, maintaining the hybrid system as well as the current recycling program is worth the few extra dollars a week to the consumer,” Angeli said. “The new proposal is still cheaper than the current proposal.”

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