Council approves recycling fees
Opt-out option remains in plan
Minot garbage customers will pay an extra $2.50 a month for curbside recycling, but they will have the ability to opt out after a free trial period under a proposal adopted by the Minot City Council Tuesday.
“There are some citizens who don’t want to participate in recycling, and we have previously given them some assurance verbally that they would have that option,” council member Mark Jantzer said. “If we give everybody a container and charge everybody whether they are participating or not, I think we are going back on the discussion about it.”
Council member Carrie Evans supported an option in which recycling costs are incorporated into higher monthly garbage container fees, noting she was not on the council during the discussion on opting out.
“I would have never supported that,” she said. “We don’t allow citizens to opt out of other services.”
She cited the cost and extra work on staff to administer an opt-out program.
Council member Stephan Podrygula said the council has an obligation to provide an opt-out.
“The proposal was conveyed to the public and to us as a voluntary program, and I think it would be a mistake to go back on that,” he said.
The program as approved raises the cost of a 65-gallon cart by 50 cents a month and a 95-gallon cart by $1 a month as well as charging a $2.50 fee. A second option would have increased cart fees by $1.50 and $3 respectively. People could have declined to recycle and returned the carts but the fees would have remained.
How the program is operated impacts the available funding in a grant from Recycling Partnership. The grant results in a contribution of $10 per cart for an opt-out program as compared to $15 a cart with universal delivery. Universal delivery leverages an additional $60,000 in grant funding, according to the Public Works Department.
To qualify as universal delivery, all customers must receive a 95-gallon cart. After delivery, they can request the cart be picked up if they choose not to participate or or they can request a smaller cart.
In allowing for an opt-out, the city will universally deliver carts but will allow a two-month grace period before charging the $2.50 monthly fee. During that time, residents can withdraw or request a smaller cart, and the city will retain the available grant money.
Jason Sorenson, assistant public works director, said all single family and duplex households will receive the carts automatically. Three- and four-plex households will have to opt in. Carts are set to arrive in June.
“About July 17 is going to be our implementation date for recycling,” Sorenson said. “On about Oct. 1, whoever still has a container, they would start paying the additional $2.50.”
Sorenson said Minot puts about 70,000 tons of municipal solid waste into the landfill every year. The estimate is that recycling by Minot residents will curb about 1,800 tons a year. The landfill also accepts waste from six counties and commercial customers.
“As we get our program off the ground then we need to figure out ways to incentivize getting recycling out into the region as well, to get the recycling number up and that total MSW disposal number down,” he said.
Council member Scott Burlingame said it is important to honor the council’s commitment to residents to allow an opt-out.
“But also I feel an obligation to save money, and the more we can do to encourage recycling, the longer we can push off this massive expense in our city,” he said of landfill replacement.
“I think it’s beneficial for the community as a whole to delay any projects with the landfill and that life can be extended. I think it’s a benefit. However, this is what we sold the community on,” council member Paul Pitner said of an opt-out. “I am not in favor of pulling what I consider somewhat of a bait and switch.”
Sorenson provided previous survey data indicating about 65% of customers would support recycling if at no additional cost. That support dropped to 56% with a monthly fee of $2-$3.
“Once real life happens and we roll this out, we just don’t know until it rolls out,” he said.
It also was pointed out that the opt-out is a one-time event. For new accounts that open or households that change ownership, there will be no opt-out. An estimated 700-800 houses sell each year and about 100 new homes are built, according to the city’s rough data.
Sorenson said the program has evolved since the original discussion.
“We’re currently spending a lot more money than we originally intended. The transfer facility came in probably about double what we expected. The trailers came in much higher than we expected. So we have a lot of money invested in this program. I just thought it made sense to get as many users on board as we can on day one. But either way, either option will fund the program,” he said.
The council voted 5-2 for opt-out policy and its associated fees, with Evans and Burlingame voting against.