On Nov. 2, the Auburn City Council approved an exclusive, 10-year solid waste contract with Waste Management.
The upshot is that between October 2021 and September 2031, Waste Management will be the only hauler hauling off solid waste in the city of Auburn.
Last fall, the city sent out requests for waste haulers to submit proposals, and of those waste haulers that responded, Waste Management received the highest marks. In the last four months, the city and Waste Management have worked together to finalize the contract. Next, the hauler will present the city a detailed implementation plan that lists everything that is to happen in the coming nine to 10 months.
“We did go out for a competitive process to try to get those best rates, but we are making some major changes to our programs, and those are part of the increased costs …As a city, we have a lot of frozen positions and we are kind of understaffed as it is,” said Joan Nelson, interim utility billing and customer service manager for the city of Auburn.
Billing and customer service will see the biggest changes.
Whereas today, the city bills its residential and commercial customers for solid waste pickup and provides customer service, but when the new contract goes into effect, Waste Management will assume these functions.
Residential and commercial customers should expect a rate increase at some point as the present rates are no longer commensurate with the actual cost of service. Waste Management’s proposal was $500,000 less per year than Republic Services.
The rates reflect the cost of service, Nelson said, so it’s important to bear in mind that each sector supports itself: residential customer rates support residential services, commercial rates supporting commercial services, and there are no cross subsidies.
The rates in the contract are the rates the city pays Waste Management, but because the city will keep its own solid waste fund, it can set its own retail rates.
The residential rate increase — of what the city will pay Waste Management — is 29 percent to 48 percent, and the 35-gallon garbage rate will increase by $7.45 per month. The new contract will also introduce a 45-gallon container, but that rate is still an unknown.
The city has not raised its retail rates since 2014 because it’s had a fairly robust solid waste fund, but it will next year because it has to set its new retail rates. But the city will use its solid waste fund to buffer some of this rate increase so it is not dramatically increasing the residential and commercial rates.
Here’s some what customers will get for the added bucks:
■ New containers, green for recycling and gray for garbage, will be delivered one to two months before the contract starts on Oct. 1, 2021.
■ Litter crew services will be incorporated into the new solid waste contract, so WM staff will provide pickup of illegal dumping, regular litter pickup services, and help empty some of the containers. For 25 years the city contracted with Vadis for litter crew services, but it stopped providing that service in 2017. Between then and now, the city has used Recology Cleanscapes.
■ The bulky-item collection event that the city typically holds in April, when residents can put out large items like refrigerators and sofas for curbside collection at no charge, will change to more of an on-demand program. The upshot is that people will no longer have to wait to get the debris hauled away. All they need to do is call and the debris can be removed right away.
■ All new collection vehicles will include the latest technology available.
■ With the customer service change will come a dedicated phone number to a large call center in Phoenix, Arizona. Waste Management will also provide what they call a customer ambassador and a customer service champion, experts in all details of the contract with Auburn.
■ Unlimited, free carry-out service for disabled residents.
■ Two special recycling events per year for difficult-to-recycle items like electronics and tires.
■ Three free storm-event yard waste collections per year, up to 96 gallons.