City to hold public hearing on garbage collection contract

A court ruling has prompted city officials to begin a 180-day planning process before taking further steps to open its garbage collection contract up for bidding.

The City Council voted in February to open bidding for the city's garbage collection contract held by Minneapolis Refuse Inc. (MRI) since 1971. But MRI filed a lawsuit in March arguing that under the state's Organized Collection Act, the city is required to take part in a 180-day planning process with interested garbage collection services - in this case, largely MRI - before taking any steps to reorganize its trash collection.

A Hennepin County District Court judge temporarily enjoined the city from proceeding with the process for selecting a garbage collection contractor without temporarily following the process, according to city documents. Because the city's contract with MRI doesn't have much more than 180 days left in it until it ends in June, the city documents note that &#8220failure to promptly start this process now would create a difficult situation for the city in the event that we do not ultimately prevail in the litigation or if the litigation is delayed.”

The city began the 180-day process with a public hearing Nov. 21. It ends May 19.

A court document drafted by city attorneys earlier this year contended that the city does not need to follow the procedures outlined in the Organized Collection Act because Minneapolis already had its own rules regarding garbage collection services by the time the state statute was enacted in 1987. Given the court's decision, however, City Attorney James Moore said the city has opted to begin the 180-day process.

&#8220The judge has basically told us what we need to do, and we're doing it,” Moore said.

The garbage contract MRI has with the city has never been competitively offered, and city officials decided earlier this year that they wanted to open the contract up to bidding to ensure taxpayers are getting the best deal under it. MRI officials have said they are confident of their pricing and service level but they wanted the city to follow the 180-day planning process.

MRI is a group of private haulers that manages half of the city's trash collection services and serves approximately 54,000 residential units under its current contract. The city provides garbage collection services for the non-MRI half of the city. MRI's contract is worth $6.5 million annually.