The Brooklyn Park City Council approved a new contract with Waste Management for recycling hauling services on Nov. 14.
While city staff members had previously told the council that Waste Management had struggled to provide adequate services in the past year, bids from new haulers proved difficult to come by and more expensive than the Waste Management proposal.
“We required them to come up with a performance improvement plan,” said Tim Pratt, recycling manager. “We are their largest municipal recycling contract so we’ve got some weight.”
The new contract includes a $1.28 per month price hike.
A representative from the company offered promises of improved customer service to the council.
“When I get the call at night that we’re not going to get every (recycling bin) picked up, there’s no one that has more angst than me,” said Rob Swanson, senior district manager with Waste Management.
Waste Management plans to prioritize Brooklyn Park when assigning drivers to routes.
The company also plans to decrease the number of homes each driver is responsible for, and institute reporting timelines so the city is aware of any potential issues in a timely manner.
“Brooklyn Park is such a high priority, we are stepping away from contracts that we previously had a heavy work load for us, so we’re reprioritizing those drivers to Brooklyn Park,” Swanson said. “We’re actually stepping back and shrinking our business slightly to make sure that we can provide that better customer service to you.”
Waste Management has provided the city with recycling services since 2002.
“Every service week since the beginning of June, there have been routes that have been pushed to the next day,” Pratt told the council in October.
The city has issued $10,000 to $15,000 in fines to Waste Management each month for unfinished pickups, Pratt said. In the new contract with the hauler, the city has upped the fines for incomplete pickups, Pratt said.
“We pride ourselves here in Brooklyn Park for customer service,” said Councilmember Terry Parks. “The last few years with Waste Management we haven’t had the same pride in customer service.”
He questioned Waste Management’s ability to improve its services and hire drivers.
Mayor Lisa Jacobson, after referring to a negative experience with a Waste Management worker, said drivers need to have soft-skills training on resident interactions to provide “customer service in how you explain yourself when you have reasoning why you didn’t just pick up our recycling.”
Swanson said the company aims to instill that level of customer service in drivers.
Pha said the council and city staff members tried their hardest to get the lowest costs passed on to residents. “There’s always room for improvement,” she said.
Councilmember Tonja West-Hafner said that the city should not fine residents who leave out their recycling carts if there are delays in service.
The city’s existing contract with Waste Management is set to expire July 1, 2023.
With the deadline for a new contract looming, the city issued a request for proposals nine months ahead of the hauling deadline, Pratt said.
Two proposals were submitted, half the number submitted in 2017 when the city last renewed its recycling contract, Pratt said.
With worker and material shortages, several haulers told Pratt they would have wanted a 12-15 month lead time to feel comfortable submitting a new municipal contract.
Waste Management and Eureka Recycling submitted proposals to the city this year.
However, Eureka was not confident they could purchase new trucks before the deadline to start hauling, which could result in a need to rent trucks, according to Pratt.
These potential added costs pushed up the cost of the Eureka proposal, Pratt said.
Waste Management had the lower-cost proposal, at $3.73 per household per month.
Current Waste Management fees for this service are $2.45 per household per month. “They’re losing money at that rate,” Pratt said.
Eureka proposed costs at $6.73 per household per month.
Currently, Waste Management owns the recycling carts used across the city.
In October, Pratt asked the council to consider purchasing new carts in an effort to level the playing field amongst haulers. However, the difference between the two proposals submitted this year was too great to be reconciled through cart purchases.
As a result, the city is not moving forward with the approximately $1.3 million purchase of city-owned carts.
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