Trash contract extended

G Men get four-year renewal for residential, one year for business

by Tom Coombe
Ely may yet give business owners a choice when it comes to garbage pickup, but not for at least another year.
That was the offshoot of action at a special council meeting Tuesday night, when members agreed to terms of a negotiated deal with the current garbage contractor - G Men Environmental Services.
Facing a Nov. 1 deadline, the council agreed on a 6-0 vote, with member Heidi Omerza absent, to extend the G Men’s residential contract for four years and commercial contract for one.
The “bifurcated contract,” appears to meet the concerns of several council members, who openly called for the city to seek bids from other vendors who may provide commercial garbage pickup.
“It gives us a year to delve into what we really want and what the consequences are,” said council member Al Forsman. “I think it gives us time to evaluate our stance.”
Forsman added “I think there is no current intent to make any changes on the residential side, and there are obvious differences of opinion and uncertainty over what to do with commercial.”
Council member Ryan Callen, who a week earlier said he wanted to see choice for business owners, added “I’ll go with this for a year.”
“One year should give us enough time to come up with something for the next contract,” said Callen.
Just a week earlier, council members were sharply split on the issue, with a 4-3 majority deciding to initiate a process that would allow for two licensees in town.
The council also asked attorney Kelly Klun to negotiate a six-month extension with the G-Men, but talks between Klun and the incumbent provider’s counsel resulted in the agreement presented this week.
“Through negotiations last week we have a proposed settlement,” said Klun.
It included the four-year extension for residential service, and scrapped earlier provisions calling for a series of three five-year contracts.
The deal also addresses the council’s concerns about commercial pickup, although it allows the G Men to collect a $50 surcharge for Saturday pickups.
Council member Angela Campbell voiced some concerns about exclusivity, which Klun indicated remains a key part of the deal.
“No one else can be a garbage collector within the city of Ely,” said Klun.
Campbell questioned whether a handyman could bring her garbage to the landfill, and Klun responded “I’m certain that occurs on a fairly frequent basis,” but she added “exclusive is exclusive and I don’t want to say a handyman can pick up garbage.”
“Residents can certainly bring their own,” said Klun. “That has been allowed and still is.”
Klun said the intent is “that you can’t have a competing business with this contract.”
“If a third party were to come in and solicit business there would be a cease and desist,” added mayor Chuck Novak.
The deal remain subject to approval by the G Men, and final approval by the council at the next regular meeting, set for Tuesday, Oct. 15.
The garbage issue has simmered for much of the year, with the city’s sanitation committee serving notice and recommending that the G Men’s contract not be renewed.
Council members have debated the issue, with member Heidi Omerza, Jerome Debeltz and Novak lobbying for the status quo.
Omerza said she believed multiple garbage contractors would lead to higher rates paid by Ely consumers, although others pushed for more choice.