Civic Beat

Garbage contract

Prompted by a lawsuit, Minneapolis officials are seeking input from more than two-dozen garbage haulers on a plan to reorganize the citys solid waste collection system.

The three-month discussion period comes more than a year after the Minneapolis City Council voted to open bidding for the citys garbage collection contract. Minneapolis Refuse Inc. (MRI), a group of private haulers, has managed garbage collection on the citys west side since 1971, and the citys Public Works Department has managed the east side.

In February 2006, the City Council voted to seek bids for MRIs contract. The garbage hauler quickly filed a lawsuit, claiming the city did not take part in a 180-day planning process with interested collection services, as is required under the states Organized Collection Act.

The court agreed with MRI, and the city is now complying with that planning process, which gives garbage haulers the opportunity to discuss plans for the collection service with city officials. In the meantime, the City Council voted at its April 27 meeting to extend MRIs contract which was originally set to expire June 30 by one year and include a 2 percent increase over the previous contract price. Another five-year contract with the city could be worth approximately $30 million for MRI, according to a letter the company sent to the city.

City staff will present a variety of options during its discussions with garbage haulers. Some of the ways solid waste collection could be organized, according to city documents, include: seeking bids for the entire area currently serviced by MRI, dividing up the half of the city currently serviced by MRI into sections and seeking bids for each section, negotiating a new contract with MRI, or negotiating with all interested garbage haulers to try to reach an agreement with the majority of haulers on an organized collection arrangement.

Susan Young, the director of the citys Solid Waste & Recycling Services, told members of the City Councils Transportation and Public Works Committee at a May 1 meeting that she hopes and expects garbage haulers will reach a consensus during their discussions on how to organize services.

Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward), who chairs the committee, said the outcome would be significant because garbage hauling is one of the biggest businesses the city is in.

Layoffs ahead for Public Works employees

The citys Public Works Department plans to lay off 15 employees, including four that were just hired in November.

Public Works Director Steven Kotke told members of the City Councils Transportation and Public Works Committee that the department expects it will need to lay off nine heavy-equipment operators and six drivers. The department hires between 1,200 and 1,400 employees, with the number fluctuating because some are seasonal workers.

The employees work in the equipment services division, which Kotke said operates like an equipment and labor pool. City departments that need equipment and operators and drivers call the division and request its services. The equipment services department then bills those city departments for its work.

Kotke listed a number of factors that have created the need for layoffs, including reduced state funding and increased construction costs that are slowing the number of projects the city can take on. Another challenge is that some work done in the department is seasonal and depends on the amount of summer construction, for example, or snow removal.

Kotke said layoff notices wouldnt be issued until June 1 and employees wouldnt actually be out of work until Aug. 1.

We certainly dont want to lose our employees as we go into peak construction season, Kotke said.

Several council members stressed that they want the department to use city employees rather than contractors whenever possible.

Colvin Roy said it is unfortunate that Minneapolis hired Public Works employees six months ago only to lay them off, and Kotke said he will put measures in place to ensure that doesnt happen again.

Funding for bus safety

Metro Transit plans to invest $2.4 million in improving security on its buses.

The funding will go toward increased police presence, broader partnerships with local police, the installation of multicamera digital recording systems in buses and increased community outreach efforts. The move comes after several incidents of violence have occurred on Metro Transit buses in recent months, including two homicides and a shooting.

Metro Transits plan is bolstered by a boost in public safety funding from city officials. The City Councils Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee voted May 2 to give $500,000 to the Minneapolis Police Department to strengthen police patrols Downtown. The committee also approved a $250,000 allocation to strengthen neighborhood safety plans in crime-ridden areas outside Downtown.

Goodman receives award

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities awarded Council Member Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) with the Civic Award of Excellence at its fifth annual conference and trade show held in Minneapolis April 29May 1.

The award announcement lauds Goodmans work promoting green roofs, noting that she has prompted Minneapolis to become a leader in the promotion and implementation of green roofs both within the region and across the country. It also highlights how she used funds from her office budget to hire a graduate student from the University of Minnesota College of Landscape Architecture to work on green roof issues, pushed for reduced stormwater utility fees for projects with green roofs, supported a green-roof-feasibility study for the city-owned Target Center, and led efforts to construct a demonstration green roof at City Hall.

Reach Kari VanDerVeen at 436-4373 or [email protected]

Civic Beat

Council Actions

4/27 Meeting

Absent: Council Member Paul Ostrow (1st Ward) was not at the City Council meeting because he was on city business regarding the Minneapolis Employees Retirement Fund.

DeLaSalle Stadium: The City Council voted 9-3 to approve a revised design of the proposed football stadium at DeLaSalle High School.

Like the Zoning and Planning Committee did the week before, the City Council granted a certificate of appropriateness for the redesigned project. The Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) had denied the certificate at its March 20 meeting, but DeLaSalle filed an appeal. The Zoning and Planning Committee granted that appeal at its April 19 meeting.

DeLaSalle had already received approval from the City Council to move ahead with plans for the construction of the stadium, but school officials revised the design in response to criticism that the athletic field will have an adverse impact on the historic nature of the island.

The new design drops the field 5 feet below grade, adds landscaping and builds the bleachers into mounds of earth. A single building to house a press box and other amenities that was originally slated to be three stories high has been broken into three separate buildings that will each be one story high.

Council Member Gary Schiff (9th Ward), who chairs the Zoning and Planning Committee, said at the April 26 Committee of the Whole meeting that the changes made for an “ingenious new design.”

Council Members Cam Gordon (2nd Ward), Diane Hofstede (3rd Ward) and Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward) voted against granting the certificate of appropriateness.

Library Merger: The Council passed a resolution pledging that it will work with the Minneapolis Public Library Board to ensure that the city’s library employees will not “suffer a loss of wages” if a merger between the Minneapolis and Hennepin County library systems moves forward.

The Council also directed staff to send a letter to the Minnesota Legislature asking legislators to support a merger bill even in the absence of support by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a union that represents 575 employees in the Minneapolis and Hennepin County libraries.

Plans to consolidate the two systems were on a fast track for approval driven by deadlines at the Minnesota Legislature. However, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners raised concerns about differences in pay and benefits between Minneapolis and Hennepin County library employees. City library employees typically earn better wages and work a shorter number of hours each week than county employees. AFSCME has said it opposes any legislation that makes a wage cut a condition of the merger, and its leaders want to see job security for members.

The City Council resolution warns that if a consolidation of the two systems is not successful, in 2009 further cuts to library service and layoffs of library employees “are unavoidable.” Gordon cast the lone vote against sending the resolution to the Legislature, and he argued that deeper cuts are only inevitable if the City Council doesn’t do anything to increase funding for libraries.

Several council members said the resolution does not mean the city doesn’t support union workers.

The merger “is the best solution to the problem and will save the most number of jobs,” Council Member Scott Benson (11th Ward) said.

Mayor R.T. Rybak said the library merger is in jeopardy at the Legislature, and the resolution is an effort to make the city’s position clear to legislators and urge them to pass the legislation.

Transit Funding: The Council supported the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s application for a federal program that has $700 million available for transportation funding, while requesting that the application’s plans include working on the portion of 35W north of 46th Street and implementing bus rapid transit (BRT).

The funding would go a long way in helping the city fund its Access Minneapolis transportation plan, Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward) said. Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward) praised the work of Minneapolis and other communities along the I-35W corridor as far south as Burnsville that pulled the application together quickly. Glidden said the funding would help the cities increase transit and reduce congestion and would provide an opportunity for a rapid implementation of bus rapid transit, which she said in some transportation plans might otherwise not be funded for another two decades.

“What this [funding] could mean is a very aggressive implementation of bus rapid transit,” Glidden said. “We could have BRT in three years.”

Money for police patrols

Mayor R.T. Rybak says he wants to see an extra $500,000 funneled to the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) to help increase police patrols along the No. 5 bus route, with an emphasis on the stops Downtown.

The move comes after several incidents of violence have occurred on Metro Transit buses in recent months, including two homicides and a shooting.

The mayor’s proposal would take the money from the city’s contingency funds. The money would be used to pay for police overtime during the upcoming summer months, when crime typically increases. Seven officers have already been added to the 1st Precinct, and eight more will be added by this summer. The MPD also plans to add four more full-time mounted patrol officers, for a total of six full-time and 18 part-time mounted officers.

“An increased police patrol will allow us to have a constant presence near problematic bus stops and around Block E,” 1st Precinct Commander Jan/e Harteau said in a prepared statement, also noting that she expects Metro Transit will be adding more beat officers to the bus stops on 5th and 7th streets.

Reach Kari VanDerVeen at [email protected] or 436-4373.