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]