Aug 042009
 
Authors: Stacey K. Borage

In a split vote last week, the Fort Collins City Council approved a 5-year pilot plan for a trash districting service that grants all pick-up rights in northwest Fort Collins solely to the lowest bidder.

The move could increase the cost of trash services by a significant amount, officials said.

Trash districting is a growing trend in American cities that allows the trash collection company that offers the lowest price to a community complete rights for disposing of garbage.

In Fort Collins, the proposed initiative will be implemented north of Prospect Road and west of College Avenue. Similar discussions are ongoing in Arvada and Golden.

The City of Fort Collins will attach an extra expense to utility bills after the pilot is implemented. Ray Meyer, the manager for Ram Waste Systems, Inc., said the fee could lighten the wallets of students who produce less trash than others.

“A student who doesn’t generate a lot of trash or recyclables (is) going to have to pay a minimum service fee plus a city fee on top of that,” Meyer said.

Ann Turnquist, the policy and project manager for the city, said the decision follows a state-wide trend of cities implementing trash districting policies.

“(Louisville and Lafayette) have really good contracts and (they’re) real happy with how it’s turned out for them,” Turnquist said.

But Teddy Gates, a senior history major who tossed his hat into the mayoral election last year, said that while he supports growth for Fort Collins, the timing for the new districting policy is off.

“I think (trash districting) would be a good idea if the economy was better and (we weren’t) going into a recession,” he said.

Fort Collins Major Doug Hutchinson echoed Gates’ dismay at the plan, saying the program will inevitably bring extra costs onto the backs of city residents.

“There are 6,500 households in the area, and we have given them no option,” Hutchinson said. “The city government is going to add trash expenses to their utility bills whether they want to have it or not.”

Hutchinson was one of three council members who voted no in the three-to-four decision.

“I don’t see a monopoly trash company being the solution to pollution and road damage,” said CSU alumna Kimberly Kronwall. “Fort Collins needs to focus on other things, not trash. I’d rather see money spent on roads, schools and busing.

“Why trash?”

The bidding is scheduled for September, but until then there’s no way to tell how much it will cost, officials said.

Meyer said Ram Waste Systems will take a hit if it doesn’t win the bid.

“If that pilot program gets bid out by (another) corporation, I’m done up there,” he said.

There are two other waste companies that operate in northwestern Fort Collins: locally-owned Gallegos Sanitation and national waste corporation Waste Management.

“The potential for Waste Management to have lower operating costs than local companies is probably greater. . It seems a little paradoxical,” Kronwall said, because Fort Collins prides itself on shopping local.

Hutchinson said the number of companies keeps waste services at a healthy cost.

“The three trash collecting companies all deliver excellent service (according to) the people that I’ve talked to, and I think quality of the service is due in part to competition,” he said.

Currently, depending on the size of the trash can, Gallegos charges between $12.50 and $37.50 a month, Ram Waste charges between $10.95 and $32.85 a month and Watse Management charges between $9 and $24 every month.

Staff writer Stacey K. Borage can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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