Mallory Herrmann

Downtown trash was the subject of some heated discussion at the city council’s budget and finance committee this week. A new contract for city trash and recycling services has been proposed, effective Nov. 1 of this year, but the committee raised concerns about the city’s subsidization of trash collection and disposal in the downtown area.

In addition to providing services for city-owned facilities like city hall, the contract also includes trash service in the downtown community improvement district (CID) – for trash and recycling receptacles in the city’s right-of-way. The CID special taxing district provides some funding to offset the costs.

Councilmember Bob Johnson, the committee’s chair, expressed frustration that the city is helping to pay for trash collection in the district while other facilities, specifically Legacy Park and its ball fields, pay for their own services outright.

The current contract is a one-year agreement at a cost of $43,579.94. When that contract was approved, the council had decided to only approve one year of service in hopes that reconsidering service at a later date would give them an opportunity to consider additional proposals – and get a better rate than the 14 percent increase in 2017. But though the city’s request for proposals did receive more responses in 2018, the cheapest services will mean an increase of almost 30 percent in cost. The total cost of the contract recommended by city staff is $56,197.45 and is within the city’s budget for city trash services.

Councilmember Trish Carlyle said she understood Johnson’s concerns but suggested moving forward to ensure continued service and avoid another big increase in cost.

“This is not fiscally responsible,” Carlyle said. “I understand where everyone’s coming from here and I see it, but we’re going about it the wrong way.”

Councilmember Phyllis Edson echoed the sentiment, suggesting that the committee send the contract to the full council for discussion and spend time in 2019 to renegotiate the agreement with the downtown CID to lessen the city’s cost.

Given the tight timeline, the committee voted unanimously to recommend the contract for approval by the full council at their Oct. 16 regular session. They reached that decision after considering an amendment to the ordinance that would remove the optional renewals, a change that was discarded when they realized it would push the timeline for approval past the current contract’s expiration – potentially leaving city facilities without trash service in the interim.

Mayor Pro Tem Beto Lopez was absent from the Oct. 1 meeting.