Some won’t use the service, but must still pay the fees
By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
Garbage and recycling pick-up in the city of Little Falls is contracted out to Otremba Disposal and City Sanitary and every resident pays a monthly fee for the service.
While residents can use any hauler they wish, they must still pay the monthly garbage/recycling fee from the city. The city bills a monthly fee of $7.21 plus tax for garbage, $3.24 for recycling and an administration fee of $2.10.
However, there are those residents who choose to use another service, but still pay the monthly fee.
The city does suspend the monthly fee for those residents who leave their homes during the winter months, called “snowbirds.”
Over the last few months, the Little Falls City Council has heard from a couple of residents who were annexed into the city Jan. 1, who say they didn’t want to use the city’s haulers, but wanted to keep their own service.
Robert and Pat Schroeder were recently annexed into the city and told the Council in November 2013, that they wanted to keep their current provider, Bob LeMieur Roll-offs Refuse and Recycling Inc., and didn’t want to pay the city’s fee on top of it.
They also pointed to the unfairness, they felt, of snowbirds not having to pay the city’s fees while out of the city.
“We found out that we can keep our carrier,” said Robert. “But we have to pay the fee that the city charges. We’ve had LeMieur’s for so many years, we feel some loyalty toward them.”
He also pointed to the fact that with this service, they had a container with wheels, making garbage pick-up easier and they didn’t have to purchase the city garbage bags.
Residents in the city have to purchase either green or blue garbage bags, depending upon where in the city they live, at a cost of $13.80 for a package of 10.
At the December 2013 meeting, the issue was brought up again by the Schroeders. At that time, City Attorney Toni Wetzel pointed out that “snowbirds” should not be exempted from the billing and that the contract could not be broken because of the annexation.
It was because of that advice that Council Member at Large Brian-Paul Crowder said he asked that the issue be discussed again.
“Why are we paying for her legal advice if we’re not acting upon it,” he said.
Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem said she’d like anyone who didn’t want to use the city garbage service not to have to pay the city fee.
David Meyer said he pays the extra $144 per year and takes his garbage to the landfill himself, because his hauler upset him.
Tom Daniels said he came to a meeting, but was unable to speak on the subject because the time had passed by the time he arrived. The Daniels family is newly-annexed.
“We used to have the garbage bag collection in the city, then a couple years of ago moved into the outskirts of Belle Prairie,” said Daniels. He said his family liked the bin with the wheels offered by Bob LeMieur Rolloffs and Refuse, the hauler the family has used since they moved.
He also liked not having to use the plastic bags. “When I lived in the city, we put a bag out a couple of times and a dog tore into it and that kind of ticked me off. They don’t allow you to protect the bag once it’s out there,” he said.
Daniels said he would like the choice to opt out of the city service and use the service he wanted, “Instead of something rammed down your throat.”
Jack Peck, a resident of the city for 35 years before moving to the outskirts 20 years ago, is now a resident again.
He, too, had been happy with the service he had but said, “I’m a member of the city now and I’ve got to pay double to have my garbage hauled away, so I went with the city.
“Both sides have their pluses and minuses … you get used to one way after doing it for 20 years and all of a sudden you switch, but you adapt to it,” said Peck. “Of all the problems we have, and I don’t think we have many, Little Falls is still the best town to live in.”
Linda LeMieur, co-owner of Bob LeMieur Rolloffs, Refuse and Recycling, asked the Council in November how the city would reimburse the business for customers lost in the annexation.
She said the business stood to lose 57 customers due to annexation. Some have chosen to stay with the company and still pay the drive-by fee.
City Administrator Dan Vogt suggested inviting Wetzel to the next meeting, which Crowder said would be “expensive.”
“If I had my way, the city attorney would be at every meeting,” said Vogt.
It was decided to invite Wetzel to the next meeting to handle some of the questions on the issue.
Those who have a problem with their garbage/recycling service can call City Hall at (320) 616-5500.
Little Falls Council Briefs
In other business Monday, the Little Falls City Council:
• Approved an updated job description for the police captain before Captain Mike Casillas’ retirement from the force in February;
• Approved a $150 annual fee for the city to become a member of the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails group, which works with the Legislature on using Legacy funding for Greater Minnesota;
• Approved hiring Dennis Kahlhamer of Pierz for the position of distribution/engineering technician at a beginning salary of $42,546. Kahlhamer will start his new job Feb. 12;
• Approved hiring Contegrity Group Inc., Little Falls, at a cost of $7,960, to provide construction management services to reroof City Hall and the Little Falls Police Department;
• Approved the purchase of a new 2014 dump truck with a single axle cab and chassis with related attachments from Nuss Truck and Equipment of Roseville for $85,907.19 plus tax. Also approved was the purchase of the plow wing, sander, dump box, hydraulic system and related hardware from Towmaster Inc. of Litchfield for $69,569 plus tax, for a total of $166,165.18. The city had budgeted $155,000. Public Works Director Jerry Lochner said the department would find places to cut to come up with the additional funds by fall; and
• Approved, upon the recommendation of the Economic Development Authority, to close out the Larson Boats Minnesota Investment Fund grant through the Minnesota Department of Energy and Economic Development. The city can now put the $500,000 plus 4 percent interest paid on the loan into a revolving fund to be used for other businesses.