City approves new garbage contract

by HEIDI DESCH
Editor | January 13, 2021 1:00 AM

Whitefish has approved a new five-year contract with Republic Services for the company to continue handling solid waste disposal for the city.

The agreement provides for an automatic increase of up to 3% each year for rates charged by Republic Services to the city. Under the new contract the monthly fee for a regular garbage container is $9.50, though that does not include a city administration fee.

City Manager Dana Smith says the rate increase in the contract is consistent with prior agreements. She noted that Council will hold a public hearing in February on proposed rates for garbage service that includes an administrative fee, but that rate will not be higher than what is currently being charged.

“This is a reasonable 3% increase,” Smith said. “Over a five year period, the 3% is an average of the annual [consumer price index] when you look at the last five years.”

“Our rates are almost the lowest in the state except for Billings, which operates its own garbage service,” Smith said.

The new contract will be effective after the current contract terminates on March 31.

Beginning in April this year, the city plans to begin billing for garbage services itself as part of its other utility billing. Prior to 2016, the city handled the garbage billing but in February Council adopted a resolution stating that it intended to bring billing for garbage back in-house with the city.

“When the garbage billing was moved to Republic Services, owners started getting an additional bill as garbage was no longer included in the water and sewer bills,” Smith said. “It seemed to streamline the process back then, but as we are moving to accounts back under property owner and property manager’s names it is cleaner for there to be one bill.”

City Council last week approved the new contract following several questions from Council members regarding details in the contract.

The new contract does not include recycling as the city plans seek proposals for contractors that would handle the recycling site and assist in the design of a new centralized recycling site planned for off Monegan Road.

Republic Services will continue to manage the city’s central recycling site through June 30.

Smith said the city chose to seek competitive bids for hauling recyclable material rather than include it in the garbage contract because it can seek bids from any company since recycling isn’t regulated in the same way as garbage. Garbage disposal requires certification from the Montana Public Service Commission to operate in certain areas.

The city and Republic Services are still analyzing the possibility of adding mandatory animal resistant containers, and the city has been working with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to determine priority zones within the city for those containers if that becomes necessary.

Smith said Council is expected to discuss the issue during an upcoming work session meeting and could be added as an amendment to the garbage contract if necessary.

The city in 2004 ceased operating its own garbage hauling services and began contracting with North Valley Refuse, which merged with Republic Services a couple of years ago.