City considering options for trash pickup, landfill

The city is conducting a study to look at potential landfill and solid waste removal options as its landfill costs continue to increase.

In April, City Commissioners approved a professional services agreement with Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc., AE2S, not to exceed $155,217.

AE2S and their sub-consultant Jacobs, formerly CH2M Hill, will conduct the first phase of a solid waste study.

City approves increased trash pickup fees

The overall study is a “planning level feasibility study which evaluates alternatives for city solid waste disposal,” according to the staff report.

During the commission’s Oct. 18 work session, public works staff updated commissioners on the study’s progress.

Mark Juras, a senior civil engineer in public works, said that staff plans to present more detail on the options later this year or early next year.

City considering trash pickup rate increase; landfill study approved

Currently, city residents have two options for garbage pickup, either city sanitation or Republic Services. Both use the High Plains Landfill.

Republic took over the landfill in 2018 and high inflation and disposal costs prompted the city to explore other options through the study process.

City approves increased trash pickup rates [2020]

The city contracts with Republic Services for use of the landfill and the current contract expires in 2024 with a few options to extend. But the contract comes with automatic inflation factors based on the Consumer Price Index.

The stipulated compensation owed by the city for disposal is a base rate plus an annual escalation of 1 times the consumer price index times the base rate for the preceding year, according to city staff.

The pandemic resulted in an increase in the CPI, and per the February 2022 news release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The all items index rose 7.9 percent for the 12 months ending February. The 12-month increase has been steadily rising and is now the largest since the period ending January 1982.”

Lease approved for city-owned property near Manchester exit [2019]

The landfill agreement stipulates that the base rate escalation percent increase cannot exceed 7 percent.

“Thus, the city could be facing significant base rate escalations for disposal in the forthcoming years due to an increasing CPI,” city staff said in April.

In the first two months of 2022, the city took almost the same tonnage of trash to the landfill as all of 1992, public works staff told commissioners in April.

During the April meeting, city staff said landfill costs were $2.33 per ton more than 2020 at $30.31, or an 8 percent increase.

Rate increase proposed for city trash collection [2017]

Those increases cause rate increases for residents, staff said.

Juras told commissioners during the Oct. 18 work session, that five options have been identified:

  • Status quo
  • Privatization, the city would cease garbage pickup and Republic would be the sole option
  • City-developed landfill, the city owns a 320-acre parcel in the county for a potential landfill
  • Develop a regional waste management authority/solution
  • Keep city trash collection, build a new city-owned transfer station, and take waste to Lewis and Clark landfill and recycling to Pacific Steel and Recycling

Juras said that staff a transfer station could allow for compaction of trash for more efficient transportation to a landfill, reducing wear and tear on sanitation vehicles and adding options for long-hauling waste.

Staff and the consultants are continuing the review the options to develop conceptual design and initial cost estimates and make recommendations to commissioners in the near future, Juras said.

Staff are also developing a fact sheet and asked commissioners for feedback on the drat that will then be posted on the city website and social media, Juras said.

City Manager Greg Doyon said it’s very early in the process, but a challenge will be obtaining permits from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for a new landfill.

Doyon said the city has historically maintained garbage collection to have competition in the city to keep rates lower for residents, but as the landfill rates increase, it’s time to look at options.

Other considerations include the lifespan of existing landfills.

Juras said the Lewis and Clark landfill has room for expansion up to about 80 years and that there’s been discussions about larger regional facilities versus smaller community facilities due to the difficulty in permitting.