NORTH OGDEN — After a short-lived stint in the trash-hauling business — eight business days to be exact — North Ogden has returned to the firm that had handled garbage collection.
In a bid to save money, the city decided to start handling trash collection in-house starting July 1, the beginning of fiscal year 2020-2021. With that, it ended its deal with Republic Services, aiming to avoid what otherwise would have been an estimated $125,000 cost increase for service from the firm for the new year.
Days in to the new arrangement, though, it became apparent the city wouldn’t be able to handle the duties, in part because of an apparent jump in trash generated in the city’s households, as in households across the country, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It obviously didn’t turn out the way we thought it would,” said Jon Call, the city attorney.
Accordingly, the North Ogden City Council on Tuesday agreed to renew its deal with Republic Services and the firm has resumed trash collection, actually as of last Monday. Going back to Republic Services will end up costing the city a bit more, though Call didn’t have a precise figure, but residents, at least, won’t see an increase in trash collection fees, which total $12.39 a month. Likewise, the city should be able to cover the extra cost with reserves and other funds.
“We thought we knew everything we needed to. We missed a few things and then the market shifted a little bit in a way that we couldn’t anticipate or at least in a way we didn’t think to ask questions about. That’s on me,” said Call, who had advocated for the change.
The city had ended processing of recyclables prior to July 1 due to rising costs of the service and that will continue under the new one-year contract with Republic Services. Customers may still fill the blue bins that had been used to hold recyclables and they’ll still be collected, according to Call. But the aluminum, paper, plastic and other materials they contain will be taken to the landfill, not a recycling processing center.
“They will still go to the landfill,” he said, probably until recycling costs come down or the City Council decides on a change.
The city leased three trash trucks to take over garbage collection at a cost of around $160,000. But the city should be able to recoup that cost with the sale of the vehicles, Call thinks.
City leaders took the news in stride, with Mayor S. Neal Berube saying the issue wasn’t with the city crews handling trash collection.
“Our team gave it everything they had,” he said. Rather, “the big surprise,” was the unanticipated increase in household garbage.
Councilperson Charlotte Ekstrom chalked it up to experience, noting the research that went into the effort. “This is how we learn stuff, right? We try it,” she said.
In some of the initial days of hauling garbage, Call said the city had crews working 16-hour days because of the higher-than-expected trash load. The city had anticipated needing 10 hours a day to haul trash.
Industry representatives, according to Call, say household trash nationwide has increased by some 30%, in part because more people are working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting office waste in their home trash cans. Likewise, more people are eating takeout food, generating more trash at home.
Call expects the city to seek out bids for service for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2021, after the year-contract with Republic Services expires.