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New waste pickup company will serve Hastings residents starting in 2013

For the past two decades, Waste Management has been a familiar presence in Hastings, but starting in 2013, the city will have a new waste pickup provider. The Hastings City Council awarded a three-year waste collection and recycling license to Tennis Sanitation Monday evening.

The city re-evaluates its waste collection and recycling service every three years. Three years after being licensed, a company can be given a three-year renewal, or the city can ask for companies to submit new proposals. The request for proposals (RFP) is done at least every six years.

This year's RFP attracted four companies: Waste Management, Troje's Trash and Recycling, Tennis Sanitation and Veolia Environmental Services. All four met the requirements of the RFP, and the utilities committee had a difficult time reaching any sort of agreement on which company the city should award the license to.

Three of the proposals were attractive to members of the council, each for its own reason. Tennis offered the lowest overall rates, which would save Hastings residents a total of nearly $400,000 over the course of three years. Troje's offered more environmentally friendly service, including more recycling options and natural gas trucks rather than diesel. Troje's also proposed moving its main office, now located in Inver Grove Heights, into Hastings. Waste Management's longtime service and community involvement was a selling point for some council members, and Waste Management also offered a recycling revenue sharing program that would give 80 percent back to the city. Troje's and Tennis both offered equal revenue sharing.

For councilmember Mike Slavik, the savings to residents was the most important factor. Councilmember Tony Nelson looked at his own bill and calculated he'd save about $20 a year individually if the city went with the lowest rates. But for him and those he spoke with, the possibility of having issues with a switch outweighed the savings.

"The people I speak with and I think myself, it's just not worth it," Nelson said.

Joe Balsanek encouraged the council to look at the proposals as a whole, and not just at the price. He suggested the savings was just one aspect of the proposals, and that there was also value in looking at long-term community, metro area and state benefits.

The vote to award the license to Tennis came after Mayor Paul Hicks pointed out the intent of the RFP process, which was established about 20 years ago. The intent, he said, was to get proposals, and this year, the RFP brought in what he felt was the best set of proposals in 20 years. His view, he said, was that if all the proposals met the requirements of the RFP, then the council should look at the price.

"Waste Management has done an outstanding job in serving our community," Hicks said. "...But if we're going to have this process, council, then we can't be afraid to change."

Councilmember Danna Elling Schultz, who is also chair of the utilities committee, agreed that the proposals were all very good, but she also pointed out that some proposals went beyond what the RFP asked for, and that the garbage industry has changed dramatically in the past six years, since the council last went through the RFP process.

The motion to award the license to Tennis passed 6-1, with Balsanek voting against.

The city only issues one residential hauler's license. Residential structures are any structure containing one, two or three dwelling units and located in a residential zone. Commercial structures are buildings that contain four or more dwelling units and commercial, industrial, professional, governmental and institutional structures and government property within the city. The city can issue an unlimited number of commercial hauler licenses.