Savage knows talking trash one sure way to get reaction

Savage is tiptoeing into one of the fiercest battles any city ever enters: a quest to cut down on the daily clamor of trash-hauling trucks.

The city is considering requiring its eight haulers — a fairly high number by metro-area standards — to work a given area on a single day each week, leaving streets and driveways at peace and uncluttered every other day.

And it’s doing so knowing that the change could push smaller haulers out of the market.

So far, officials say, phone calls and e-mails are running almost two-to-one in favor of the change. But the opposition, as always, is vehement.

“Leave garbage the way it is,” resident Ron Hunter declared in an e-mail. “Any time a city gets involved with anything the costs always go up.”

A great many metro-area cities — as many as three quarters, says one Savage hauler — already impose such zones. City Administrator Barry Stock was able to assure council members that the primary hauler in the city, the national firm Waste Management, greeted the change mildly.

But it could reduce the kind of consumer choice that many residents think helps assure lower prices and better service.

“It could affect us greatly,” said Paul Rosland, owner of Suburban Waste Services, based in Eden Prairie but with its shop in Savage. “It affects the small guys much more than the big guys. ‘Waste’ is so big it matters less to them, but depending on how our routes line up, it could be a huge issue for us.”

Council members seem to be waiting to see how public opinion sorts itself out; none of those contacted for this article returned the calls.

By Friday, according to a summary passed on by city spokeswoman Amy Barnett, the city had received more than 40 e-mails and 20 phone calls. Thirty-six of those offering opinions favored the zones, and nine went even further, calling for a single city-designated hauler, the system used in neighboring Shakopee.

“The only way to go is with zoned pickup,” wrote resident Don Christner, who warned against a single hauler. “I lived in Woodbury [prior to zoning being imposed there], and there was trash and trash trucks up and down our street every day. I’m not a picky guy, but even I thought that it looked terrible to have someone’s trash out every day.”

A smaller but passionate group of 20 opposed city involvement.

“I want the opportunity to pick my own trash hauler,” wrote Jerry Arntson. “I saved $25 a billing period to get rid of Waste Management. This is not Russia, get a clue.”

Many support the smaller haulers as easier to deal with than national firms, and a reporter got a taste of why last week in seeking reactions from the firms. A call to Rosland’s small firm resulted in a callback from the owner within minutes.

A call to Waste Management’s number listed on Savage’s website yielded this: “You’re speaking to someone in Wisconsin, and I don’t have any phone numbers for anyone in that area.” (The company’s own website eventually led to government affairs director Julie Ketchum, who said the firm is “neutral” on trash zoning). After sputtering along for many years, the issue of trash trucks got a push a couple of years ago from a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency study that pointed to a number of concerns about multiple haulers working single cities. Among them: wear and tear on streets. The impact of trash trucks on pavement can be more than a thousand times greater than that of a car.

In Savage, the issue has been the topic of an informal city council workshop but has not yet made it to a formal council agenda as officials compile and analyze public reaction.

David Peterson • 952-882-9023

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