St. Paul’s new garbage program has been very controversial, but up until recently, we had been supporters. We don’t want multiple garbage trucks driving on our streets and alleys, causing damage to the infrastructure, increasing noise and pollution.
We used to have local haulers remove our garbage. We didn’t have any real loyalty to our haulers — we just wanted it removed at a reasonable rate. We had hoped that the City and the haulers would resolve some of the outstanding bugs in the new system. We now realize that there is another substantial problem that may affect many people in St. Paul.
Many Minnesotans try to escape the cold for periods during the winter. Similarly, many people in St. Paul have to leave the city for work, sometimes for weeks or months at a time. In the past, if you were going to be out of town, you would simply call your garbage company and a hold would be put on for the dates you would be gone — no problems. Now everything has changed.
Our new hauler, Advanced Disposal informed residents who have requested a hold that they would have to fill out a form. This seems innocuous enough. However, when you get to the bottom of the form, the haulers are now requiring documentation before they grant you a hold. Residents now have to provide one of the following:
The Public Works Department is in charge of the new program. When told of concerns that personal information was being collected by the garbage haulers, the director stated that at the time they signed the contract there wasn’t language that the haulers and the City of St. Paul could agree to. The director also said that her office hadn’t reviewed the forms, even though she signed the contract along with the Director of Finance, City Attorney, and then-Mayor Coleman. The Deputy City Attorney who represented the City during the protracted negotiations with the haulers said the contract was silent on the requirements the companies would use to determine to approve or deny a hold.
The operations manager at Advanced Disposal said all of the garbage companies agreed to the same form. If a resident sends in the form by mail or email a staff person from their company forwards it to management to determine whether to grant the hold. When asked what would happen if residents refused to provide this personal information, the operations manager said the applications would be denied and the form would be sent to the city and your property taxes would be assessed.
On the City Public Works website it states, “If a hauler denies a property owner’s request for a service hold, the property owner can appeal a service hold to the City.”
Here are a few reasons why this whole process is a bad idea.
In our view, the City of St. Paul was negligent by not asking these questions during their negotiations with the haulers. They then signed an agreement that is at best unethical and possibly illegal, not to mention the lack of transparency. Did they really think that residents would just comply?
The Deputy City Attorney and the haulers have said that without this documentation some people might try to sabotage the new program to get around the provision that requires each resident to have a garbage can. There are some legitimate issues that the haulers and the City still have to resolve. However this blatant intrusion into people’s personal lives is just wrong. The City and the garbage companies are treating all residents of St. Paul as if they are dishonest.
Michael Paymar, Laura Goodman and Don Gemberling are residents of St. Paul.