Approving a garbage collection contract is a mundane process for most cities. In North Bend, it could deliver $140,000 to a downtown business nonprofit over the next decade as its collection provider looks to make up for a service disruption.
Funds would benefit the North Bend Downtown Foundation, who would receive a total of $40,000 in donations over the next two years, and annual donations of $10,000 for another decade thereafter.
Donations stem from a proposed garbage collection contract between the city and Republic Services, an Arizona-based trash collection company that has contracted with the city for decades.
Lucas Haines, a foundation board member and owner of Volition Brewing, said those donations would go to holiday lighting this year. Future funds would be invested in the downtown-core, including mainstreet accreditation, he said.
“Over this process [Republic] they’ve really leaned in and gotten to know myself and the board, really gotten to understand what we want to achieve,” Haines said at the city council meeting on Nov. 15.
Republic’s 11-year-long contract with the city expires in 2024, and city officials are considering a new ten-year agreement. The proposal follows a service disruption last winter that resulted in a $30,000 loss for the city, according to a city spokesperson.
“We love this town, our drivers love this town, I got to know your downtown foundation, I’ve gotten to know your chamber of commerce,” said Wendy Weiker, a sales manager with Republic. “I’ve been here daily, monthly, endlessly trying to figure out how best to serve this community.”
During the disruption, city residents went between three and five weeks without collection service due to a snowstorm and subsequent labor-strike, leading North Bend Mayor Rob McFarland to issue an emergency declaration.
The city provided collection during the disruption using its own funds, and requested reimbursement from Republic for its residents. The trash company, citing its contract with the city, did not provide those funds, leaving many residents and city officials frustrated.
“We went through [the contract] and all parameters were met,” said Dan Marcinko, a capital projects manager for the city. “We did everything we could. We worked with Republic, it was a partnership, and we did the best we could under the circumstances.”
Still, more than half of the city council voiced frustrations about the disruption at the council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15.
“It was incredibly inconvenient for our residents,” Mayor Pro Tem Jonathan Rosen, said of the situation. “It felt like an insult to injury when we got a bill in the mail.”
Rosen was among a group of five council members who agreed to delay a final vote on the new contract until it received additional review. The group had concerns that the contract lacks specific language to prevent a repeat of last winter. They said other cities had received reimbursements.
“Somebody had the contract written in a way such that something similar happened and the outcome was very different,” Councilmember Mark Joselyn said.
Councilmembers Ross Loudenback and Mary Miller voted against the delay. Loudenback acknowledged the contract could be amended to address catastrophic events, but said that might add additional cost.
The city evaluated offers from two other collection providers, but Republic received the highest evaluation. Rates under the new contract will rise, according to a staff report, but Republic provided by far the cheapest option.