Trash cutoff expected to snowball
Waste Connection’s shocking one-week notice that 103 rural residences will lose trash pickup may be just the first in a series of challenges county residents face.
County commissioner Kent Becker disclosed Monday that the company plans to end trash pickup in Durham, Lincolnville, and Tampa and other rural areas when contracts with those towns expire in the coming year.
“It’s going to keep snowballing,” he said.
Those towns got a one-year extension when 20 to 30 rural customers were cut off a year. He does not know when each extension ends.
Becker said the company cited lack of drivers and lack of parts for trash trucks as reasons for discontinuing service.
“They came up with lots of excuses, but they set the same tone as last year,” he said.
The move could impact more than just residents whose trash is picked up.
Private companies picking up waste in the county usually don’t take it to the county’s transfer station.
The county does not pick up trash itself but is responsible — at considerable cost — for transferring to out-of-county landfills trash sent to the county’s transfer station in Marion, where some residents might start bringing their trash, leading to the county facing even larger bills for transferring waste.
“We could have a huge pile-up of trash coming into the transfer station,” Becker warned.
Although cancellations of pickup service appear to be confined to the northern half of the county for now, “there may be something happening in the south, too,” county commissioner Jonah Gehring warned.
Rural Tampa resident Carol Klenda a letter Thursday from Waste Connections saying the company no longer would pick up her trash effective Monday.
Klenda said area residents might be willing to take their trash to a designated pickup area that a trash service would find more convenient than picking up trash from each household, but no such arrangement has been made.
County commissioners discussed the situation at a meeting Monday.
Chairman Randy Dallke said the problem seemed to be industry-wide.
“They’re having trouble with people — with getting drivers to drive this area,” he said. “It’s going to affect a bunch of people, and it’s not going to be good.”
With help from county clerk Tina Spencer’s office and county counselor Brad Jantz, the county has identified two private trash collection firms that might be willing to expand services into Marion County.
Becker said he had been in touch with a local person considering starting a collection service.
“I have an individual who’ll be coming in next week to discuss a new business that will be starting up here in Marion County,” he said. “This individual is now in the permitting process. He doesn’t know what kind of timeframe will be involved.
“I’m guessing that, with cancellations starting next Monday, we’re going to have a number of people without any service for a number of months.”
Becker said the potential new trash collector had been looking at his options for opening a waste collection service but had not purchased a trash truck or received permits.
“It’s going to be a lot of issues for a while,” Becker said.
One solution briefly considered by commissioners was for the county to start its own collection service.
“It’s difficult if the private sector doesn’t see it as advantageous,” Jantz said. “It’s a struggle. That’s why the county does many of the things it does.”
The county could seek bids from a firm for a trash collection contract for all rural areas of the county, Jantz said. But he cautioned that other options might be more feasible.
“I’ve seen where it’s been a cooperative approach with cities in the county,” he said.
Larger cities like Hillsboro, Marion, and Florence have their own trash collection services. Florence’s service also collects trash from residences at Marion County Park and Lake.
Encouraging cities to reach out and serve rural areas or other communities as well as customers within city limits might be possible.
“We could help facilitate it as a broker,” Jantz said. “It’s plausible. It would keep us out of the full utility side of it.”
He urged commissioners to look to McPherson County as a model of urban-rural cooperation.
“Cities are on their own? The countryside is on their own? Where’s the fairness in that?” commissioner David Mueller asked.
He said he also had heard from someone interested in starting a collection service, “but I think their eyes will be opened.”
Waste Connections has declined to give the county names of customers it will cut off but has supplied service addresses, Becker said.
Commissioners seemed focused on reaching out to other collection companies or establishing cooperation among smaller cities and rural customers.
“A couple of other suppliers, if you throw in some towns with it, it might be worth their while,” Mueller said.
Mueller said the county didn’t control trash collection in the county.
“I wish there was an easy answer,” he said. “But we’re gathering information and looking at options.”
Last modified Dec. 9, 2021