City votes down single hauler trash system

The Monticello city council listened to its constituents and voted down a proposal on Tuesday to switch to a single hauler garbage system.

A city committee had recommended the move as a way to provide better monthly rates and less wear and tear on local streets, but after hearing from several who testified against the idea, alderman voted down the proposal by a 5 to 2 vote.

Those against the single hauler option said they would rather keep the current system that allows them to choose between three carriers. Many also spoke up for Cisco-based Young's Disposal Services, encouraging the city to allow the local business to remain as an option.

“It felt personal to me. These people really went out on a limb to build this business, and we know what could happen to them and that bothers me on a personal level,” said Jessica Culp, who added she investigated the three available haulers extensively before choosing Young's.

Steve Towner also felt the single-company idea was a conflict for a town that encourages entrepreneurship through its business bootcamp program.

“To me, it seems full of hypocrisy to encourage entrepreneurs to become business leaders and open up a business here in town, then say, 'well, but we probably won't support you, and given the opportunity we may pull the rug out from under you,'” said Towner.

If the single hauler had been approved, Advanced Disposal would have provided pickup for all Monticello residents. The five-year contract would have saved most residents between three and six dollars per month, according to city estimates.

But cost really wasn't the issue, Mike Craft told the council.

“You have a choice. You have a choice which gas station, which restaurant, hardware store, retail store that you want to use. Choice is the operative word,” he said.

One segment that could have paid more with a single company were lower-volume users who can currently pay for garbage pickup by the bag, an option offered by Young's.

Standing up for the one-hauler proposal was audience member Lynn Simon, who among other benefits liked the idea of trash being picked up just one day per week.

“So we would not have totes and bags on the curbside every day per week, which does not look very nice for people coming into town,” said Simon.

Alderman Cochran Keating said a main reason a subcommittee recommended a single hauler was to save on street repair costs.

“There is an extreme impact on the roads,” he said. “When you have six trucks going up and down these roads every week, there's a significant impact, and indeed when you're traveling around with public works you see firsthand the damage.”

Fellow Alderman Joe Brown understood that thinking, but said it was not enough to trump an overwhelming majority of constituents who told him they wanted the freedom to choose.

“Although it pains me because I don't want to see us spend more money on roads, I think the citizens deserve the government they want to pay for and that's what I've heard. They want choice and are willing to pay the price for it,” commented Brown.

Keating was on the committee that studied the issue, and despite voting for a single hauler said he enjoyed the time that was put into it and the feedback given.

“I appreciated the process and I applaud – and I've used the word before – the courage of the people to come out to participate in the democratic process and to share their views. There were many sides to this circle and although we had studied as much as we could to come to a conclusion, there were still other sides that needed to be heard, and I learned things tonight. I learned things over the last month that altered my opinions in many ways,” said Keating.

Voting for the single-hauler recommendation were Keating and Jeremy Jones. Voting “no” were Brown, Wendall Brock, John Miller, Tom Reed and Tammy Sebens.

The city began studying the issue earlier this year, discussing it at 14 meetings over the past 11 months as they sought a way to have more control over prices and charged and services offered by carriers.

Several alderman noted they had heard from constituents more on this issue than any other in recent memory. John Miller said that included input from about 140 people over the past several months, with a large majority saying they wanted to be able to choose their own garbage hauler.

By defeating the recommendation, the city will continue to operate by licensing haulers who can then compete for local business.

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