Recycling sig

The Little Falls City Council had a chance to give input, Monday, on the second version of a request for proposals (RFP) that will be sent out to potential residential recycling haulers.

The request will be sent out to solicit proposals from businesses interested in taking over one- and two-unit residential recycling in Little Falls. The current contract with City Sanitary ends Dec. 31.

The Council voted to reject all four proposals it received from the first RFP — which went out in March — and start the process over at its July 6 meeting. The decision came after two months of conversation, input from local haulers and getting advice from City Attorney Alissa Harrington.

“As we look to redo the RFP, are there really some critical elements within the existing RFP that you want to see to see removed or amended or adjusted?” said City Administrator Jon Radermacher. “And then, are there any items, like single-stream collection? Or the question about providing the carts? And, you know, obviously, (there was) a lot of discussion around whether or not there’s local considerations and what those are going to be and how those are going to be measured. In the RFP process moving forward, are some of those elements (you’re) wanting to be looked at and wanting to be added?”

After several rounds of back and forth, Radermacher said city staff did not want to send out another RFP without first getting input from the Council.

Council Member Jim Storlie said he wanted the Council to consider how the proposals would impact other businesses in Little Falls. Mayor Greg Zylka said he understood what Storlie was getting at, but didn’t feel it could really be measured as part of an RFP.

Ultimately, he said he wanted the RFP to ask haulers for proposals that included single-stream collection in a single container.

Radermacher agreed that it would be difficult to measure in an RFP how awarding the contract to a specific hauler would benefit other businesses within the city.

“What are the factors that we can count on in that response to say, ‘OK, we can directly measure the value and impact of something?” Radermacher said. “Mr. Storlie, if your question is about its impact to other businesses, like, I’m guessing EEI, I don’t believe much of our residential recycling goods even go to EEI in our current form. So, I mean, if that’s part of the proposal in a future RFP, well, that’s something maybe we can measure. But currently, that wasn’t something that we were doing.”

Board Chair Brad Hircock echoed Zylka’s sentiment. He said most of the people with whom he had spoken wanted single-stream recycling in a single container.

Council Member Raquel Lundberg said she would like the haulers to include a full list of all materials they are willing to collect in the RFP. That would include specific kinds of paper and plastics.

She also wanted to know if the haulers will provide containers, or if that would be the city’s responsibility.

“They don’t want multiple containers,” Hircock said. “They want one container. These people that have talked to me — actually, most of them said, ‘I’m not concerned about who the hauler is. I’m concerned about getting single-source.’ That was a majority of the comments that I got.”

Lundberg and Zylka said they have had a similar response from constituents.

Council Member Frank Gosiak said he has received some of those comments, but had also heard from people who would be satisfied with the existing containers if a lid is provided. As far as the feedback he has heard, he said the method — single-stream or mixed use — wasn’t as important as the container.

Council Member Jerry Knafla said the feedback he has received was similar to what was expressed by Hircock, Zylka and Lundberg.

“I would like to see the haulers provide the container,” Knafla said. “I don’t see it as the responsibility of the city, that they have to provide containers.”

Radermacher said the last containers purchased by the city in 2017 cost about $50 each, including shipping and delivery cost. That was for 64-gallon containers, similar to what the city uses for residential trash collection.

Lundberg asked if it could be included in the RFP whether or not the containers could be picked up in the alley, rather than on the curb in front of homes.

“I just hate driving down Third Street or Lindbergh Drive, or any street that has an alley behind it, and seeing all these cans sitting out in front of the house when we have alleys where they should be, and people leave them in the front of their house because they don’t have a sidewalk from the front to the back,” she said. “... Are we going to have a garbage can and a recycling can sitting in the front of our houses, totally destroying that curb appeal?”

Gosiak said the issue was brought up before during discussions for residential garbage. He said, at that time, the Council was told containers can’t be collected in the alley because overhead utility wires and trees get in the way of lifting containers to dump into the truck.

Lundberg said the trucks are currently collecting in the alley on Third Street Southeast, which is under construction this summer.

“If they can pick up in the alley during the construction, then why can’t they when it’s not under construction?” Lundberg said.

“Not in the city as a whole,” Gosiak said. “I mean, I’m sure you could do it in some spots, but you can’t do it everywhere.”

Gosiak asked if there could be two container sizes offered, depending on the size of the household. Radermacher said the city could ask but, from feedback he received from respondents to the previous proposal, he knows they prefer one size. He said that could be any size — 32, 64 or 96 gallons.

He added that, initially, several people wanted 32-gallon containers when multiple sizes were offered for trash. Many people ended up ordering a second container because 32 wasn’t enough. Since then, he said the city has ordered only 64-gallon containers.

“I think one size would be best to stick with,” Hircock said. “Before I was annexed, I had the 64-gallon recycling container and a 32-gallon garbage. They were each full every time I put them out, and recycling was only every other week.”

Finally, Gosiak asked if the city was going to ask for a certain length of contract for the next hauler.

“I would like this (to be) just one year from each, because then that way we can compare,” Zylka said. “Now, I don’t want somebody to do five years out, a local hauler to do one year, and then say, ‘Well, look at this, they’re not even going up to three years.’ So, to me, it’s not apples to apples.”

The city will be presented with a copy of the RFP for approval before it is sent out to prospective haulers.

Little Falls City Council Briefs:

In other business Monday, the Little Falls City Council:

• Heard public comment from Chad Compton, who said he received a large bill for sewer charges at a property that has not been connected to city utilities for “three or four years now;”

• Heard public comment from Keaton Marrow and Sarah Okroi, who advocated for inclusion of a sidewalk on both sides of Third Street Southeast as part of its current construction project. The current plan is to only include sidewalk on one side of the street, which Marrow and Okroi said causes safety concerns for members of the community with different abilities;

• Approved a lease agreement with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety for use of the North Pine Grove Park parking lot for a motorcycle skills test course;

• Approved a show license for Scott’s Lot, 503 First Street SE, to host guitar performances on July 23, Aug. 28 and Sept. 11. Council Member Raquel Lundberg abstained from the vote;

• Approved a bid of $677,709.30 to Anderson Brothers Construction of Brainerd to complete the Safe Routes to School construction project;

• Rejected all bids for the 14th Street Southeast public improvement project and directed staff to update plans and specifications and obtain pricing for the project;

• Approved a low bid of $34,724.50 to Knife River Corporation - North Central of Sauk Rapids for parking lot improvements at the Little Falls Area Recreation Complex;

• Passed a resolution ending the emergency declaration put in place due to COVID-19;

• Approved a resolution allowing authorization of a required certificate of approval for a half-cent local option sales tax ballot question to be put on the 2022 election for a community recreation center;

• Approved a request from City Administrator Jon Radermacher to attend the 2021 International City/County Manager’s Association Conference in Portland, Oregon;

• Approved a professional services agreement with Community Partners Research, Inc. to conduct a housing study for the city of Little Falls at a cost of $13,500; and

• Approved a variance for Christopher and Heather Bell to reduce the setback from their garage to an adjoining property from 15 to 10 feet.

The next meeting of the Little Falls City Council is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 2, at Little Falls City Hall.

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