North Bend residents can anticipate their monthly garbage bill to nearly double once the city begins a new collection contract, regardless of which company inks a deal with the city.
With the city’s current contract set to expire in March 2024, North Bend City Council members are weighing options for a new decade-long agreement at a time when record-high inflation has left them with few preferable options.
Under the city’s current agreement, residents are paying about $26 a month in collection fees for a 35-gallon residential garbage bin. Costs for the same service would nearly double under a new agreement, according to a city staff report.
While the city has looked at three different companies to contract with, all will have significant pay bumps compared to what residents are currently paying.
Councilmembers said the extra cost is unavoidable given the economic circumstances, while also noting the previous contract, approved in 2012, was a great deal.
“What we face is a doubling cost because this contract was a great deal 10 years ago,” Councilmember Mark Joselyn said. “Regardless of the decision made by this council, that increase is going to be substantial.”
City officials are unlikely to sign another agreement with Republic Services, its current provider, after a service disruption and lack of reimbursement became a sticking point for councilmembers.
Last year, the city spent $30,000 to provide trash service to its residents during a service disruption that lasted up to five weeks for some residents. Republic was unable to serve the city because of a snowstorm and subsequent labor strike.
City officials said they requested reimbursement for missed service, and Republic did not meet those requests like they did in other cities. However, in November, Republic did offer to give $140,000 over the next decade to the North Bend Downtown Foundation, a main street nonprofit run by business owners.
“We spoke ad nauseam about the credit,” Councilmember Brenden Elwood said. “It was constantly met with ‘sorry, not in the contract.’”
In recent negotiations, Jeff Brown, a consultant working for the city, said they wanted some assurance they would not have to pay for missed service.
“When we sat down and talked with Republic, we said we absolutely want something in writing that says ‘if we have a repetitive service we will do this — fill the blank — and there will be no additional payment,” he said. “They were unable to provide something.”
This week, the city council considered an agreement with another waste management company, Recology, which agreed to provide a missed service credit in the event of disruption. They also worked with the city to reduce its rates by extending the length of the contract by two years, Brown said.
According to a city analysis, the rate increases under a contract with Recology are comparable Republic’s. Although, that hypothetical assumes a 12-year deal with Recology and a 10-year deal with Republic. Recology’s new contract would have an estimated annual contract revenue of $3.26 million while Republic would be at $3.01 million.
The city council punted on approving the Recology contract, and are expected to take it up at its next council meeting.