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Morris, Republic negotiate garbage service

Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 9:52 p.m. CDT

MORRIS – With the upcoming closure of Environtech Landfill, Morris residents could pay slightly more in garbage fees.

The Morris Health and Sanitation Committee approved Tuesday a preliminary, five-year contract with Republic Services to continue providing waste pick up services for the city once the city's landfill closes.

If approved by the full City Council in July, the contract stipulates a 1 percent decrease in waste fees until April 30, 2015 at which time fees will jump up by 2 percent. In the following three years, garbage fees would increase 3 percent annually with an additional 2 percent increase in the fifth and final year of the contract.

The contract was drafted to last four years, but aldermen present at Tuesday's meeting agreed to extend the deal to lock in the 2 percent increase for the fifth year.

Committee members said the increases were reasonable and were actually lower than they expected.

"Everything we do now is going to cost money," committee member Alderman Randy Larson said. "This is a reasonable price. It's not outrageous. Even if we put this out to bid, I don't think we'd be in as good of shape as we are right now."

Hank Potts, Municipal Services Manager for Republic Services, told the committee the increases stem from several factors including the closure of Environtech. Once the Ashley Road facility closes, garbage will have to be hauled to a landfill in Ottawa.

In 2012, the City Council voted against a host agreement with Republic Services as a step toward expanding its Environtech Landfill. If the host agreement had been approved, Republic intended to apply for an expansion of the landfill to extend its life by 20 to 25 years. If the expansion was granted, the landfill would have been expanded to hold 14 million cubic yards of garbage.

But the council voted, 5-4, against growing the landfill, with Mayor Richard Kopczick breaking the tie against it. The city is now working with Republic on a plan for its garbage that will entail the city's garbage being shipped to another landfill.

The landfill was initially scheduled to close in September, but Potts said at the meeting there is a good chance the landfill will remain open through April of next year.

Anticipating the extension of the timeline to close the landfill, Republic agreed to decrease garbage fees 1 percent until April.

"We are looking at a 1 percent reduction until April, which is a savings we will pass on to the taxpayers," Kopczick said.

Rising costs of energy, fuel and other inputs also contribute to the rise in cost, Potts said.

"I don't care how good you control a budget," Potts told the committee. "You're still going to have some areas of increase that are out of your control."

The city and Republic are still negotiating the cost of diesel fuel. Originally, Republic intended to charge the city diesel prices from the month of April, but Larson pushed the company to charge a year-long average fuel price instead of picking a "random" month.

"I think this is the most fair way to do it," Larson said Tuesday.

Because of ongoing negotiations, the set fee prices are not yet finalized, but should be ready by the July 21 council meeting when the contract will be voted on.

Other details of the contract include upgrading residents' current garbage totes to a larger size and converting the old containers into yard waste bins. The goal was to save citizens money on yard waste bags.

Republic will pick up the yard waste along with residents' regular garbage.

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