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More trash talk in Ely

City council rejects new garbage contract

Keith Vandervort
Posted 10/3/19

ELY - City officials here face a sanitation contract expiration deadline at the end of the month that could disrupt curbside garbage pickup for residents and businesses. Council members rejected a …

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More trash talk in Ely

City council rejects new garbage contract


ELY - City officials here face a sanitation contract expiration deadline at the end of the month that could disrupt curbside garbage pickup for residents and businesses. Council members rejected a renegotiated pact with G-Men Environmental Services Tuesday night, and directed the city attorney to draft separate residential and commercial waste pick-up license requirement ordinances with the idea of having multiple waste haulers serve the city.

The current contract ends on Nov. 1. If G-Men refuses to agree to a contract extension, residents and businesses would be forced to haul their own trash to the Northwoods Transfer Station on Hwy. 21, or garbage cans and dumpsters could soon overflow around the city.

Draft ordinances require readings at two separate council meetings and a public hearing for approval.

Following a notice of contract termination earlier this year, the council directed City Attorney Kelly Klun to negotiate a new contract with G-Men with the idea that weekend garbage pickup for commercial customers in the city could be available, either through G-Men or another licensed hauler.

The current contract does not require weekend garbage pickup and at least one commercial customer, a local grocery store, approached the Sanitation Committee last spring looking to obtain that service.

Klun and G-Men’s attorney reached a tentative agreement, and council members were asked this week to approve a new contract, or give the city attorney a path to move forward.

The new contract would change the starting time for garbage pickup to 6 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m. and provide for commercial pickup six days a week (excluding Sundays and holidays), instead of Monday through Friday. Saturday commercial pickup would include a $50 surcharge in addition to the standard commercial rate and any waste collection complaints could also be reported to the city’s Sanitation Committee.

“We went back and forth a number of times,” Klun said, “particularly on the issue of Saturday pickup, because of employee union contract stipulations, and the fact that very few customers are looking for weekend garbage service.”

Council member Jerome Debeltz made a motion, supported by Heidi Omerza, to accept the renegotiated contract.

But council member Paul Kess urged the council to consider “the range of options that are out there.” He said he didn’t want to see an “either or” decision made.

Mayor Chuck Novak asked Kess to produce the other options. “Where are they?” he asked.

“This seems to shut the door on discussing any option,” Kess said.

“This just didn’t happen overnight,” Novak responded. “We have been at this for a while.”

Council member Al Forsman contended that the city attorney was directed to negotiate an extension to the current contract. “I feel that what the city requested was not negotiated. This is for the contract holder’s benefit and ignores our request,” he said. “We just got this contract this afternoon. It is my intent that we reject this and move forward.”

Council member Omerza warned that separating the residential and commercial contract is a bad idea. “If we do that, the rates will go up,” she said. “We work very hard as a city to keep rates down. It doesn’t matter if it is property taxes, or EUC rates, or whatever. If we reject this (renegotiated contract) rates will go up.”

She added that with no licensing provisions in place for garbage pickup, the city will be required to restart the process of providing that service. “We are dealing with the recycling center right now and people are upset about that,” she said. “I’m a little upset and frustrated. We don’t have any formal complaints. We have a few people squabbling over this. I understand that. If we don’t squabble over things here it wouldn’t be Ely.”

The motion to accept the new contract failed on a 4-3 vote. Council members Kess, Forsman, Ryan Callen and Angela Campbell voted to reject the new contract. Novak, Omerza and Debeltz voted in favor of the motion.

With that vote, Klun suggested that the council could offer a counter offer for the contract, or develop licensing requirements relative to city collection by the Nov. 1 deadline.

Forsman made a motion to direct the city attorney to draft separate residential and commercial waste pickup license provisions based on county and state requirements. That motion passed on a 4-3 vote.

A first reading of the new garbage pickup ordinance, with the new license requirements, will likely be held on Tuesday, Oct. 15. Council members agreed to cancel their study session on Tuesday, Oct. 29, and instead hold a special council meeting that would include a public hearing and possible second reading of the ordinance.

In order to give themselves some breathing room, the council unanimously directed Klun to ask G-Men to extend their current contract until June 30, 2020, or until such time as a new contract is in place. “If I do not get agreement from the vendor (on a contract extension) I will be back to you in short order asking you to schedule meetings to get this licensing done. One way or another, we’ll find out in a couple of days.”

Other business

In other action, the council:

Authorized a grant request to the Minnesota Historical Society to fund retaining wall repair at the Pioneer Mine site.

Approved a note and mortgage for a Residential Rehab Loan for Drew Tippler, 211 W Chapman St. for sewer line code work at a cost of $9,000.

Approved a Commercial Rehab Loan for Sarah Burger to replace the roof at 48 E Sheridan for $10,000.

Approved the mortgage satisfaction for Ann Loscheider for the mortgage recorded Sept. 25, 2018.

Approved a resolution to apply for a Community Development Block Grant for James Street reconstruction.

Scheduled a maintenance of private property appeal hearing for 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday Oct. 15 for the property at 106 E Harvey St..

Approved a residential rehab loan for Kim Eldevik, 6 W Conan St., pending proper paperwork and processing.

Approved a request from Monica and Tim Cunningham to purchase two parcels and to vacate an undeveloped portion of Park Avenue.

Approved a resolution to assess taxable properties for delinquent water, sewer and electric accounts.

Transferred a city of Ely tobacco license from Blomberg and Sons, Inc. to Range Cooperatives, Inc.

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