906-293-8401 nbynews@jamadots.com

By Sterling McGinn

The Newberry Village Council voted unanimously to pass ordinance 13 to terminate the current village waste disposal program, and outsource residential curbside and dumpster services.

The decision was made at the regular monthly council meeting held Tuesday, March 15, which began immediately after the conclusion of a public hearing on the matter. Approximately ten members of the public were in attendance at the hearing along with representatives from GFL.

An aging garbage truck, along with the potential of increased garbage fees, made the board explore the option of contracting with a waste hauler. After many months of discussions and meetings, the board voted to outsource garbage removal and sign a contract with an exclusive company to collect solid waste from village residents.

The village followed a competitive bid process and accepted the bid from Green For Life Environmental Inc. (GFL) at their regular meeting held January 18. The village also received a bid from Zellar Sanitation Inc.

Prior to the start of the March regular session, the council held a public hearing to allow residents an opportunity to hear an overview of the proposed ordinance, and to ask questions and express concerns to the board. Village manager Allison Watkins and DPW superintendent George Blakely were present to review the proposed changes.

Newberry resident Chris Cox submitted comments and was also present at the hearing to express his concerns. “I ask the board to slow down,” he said during the hearing. “I realize that you have been at it for several months, but a lot of this information, especially the pricing schedules and information is just now becoming public. … No matter which direction we go, get the information out there.”

“The garbage program in the village has been a topic of conversation for probably the last 10 years,” explained Watkins. “At the February 18 meeting in 2020, the village council voted unanimously to do a study of ways to improve the garbage services. At the time, there were over six outside garbage haulers picking up garbage in the village.”

With the significant amount of garbage haulers, concerns were raised about the damage to the streets and commercial haulers using the village streets with the village not having franchise fees.

“Primarily the concern that we have from the village is that our garbage truck is aging, we are not sure how much longer it is going to continue functioning,” expressed Watkins.  She noted that only 40-percent of the community uses the village garbage services, while 60-percent of residents use haulers of their choice.

Watkins and Blakely gathered information from other municipalities, specifically St. Ignace, where residents are required to use the same contractor.

Terminating the village garbage service would free up 80 hours of work time for DPW staff, allowing for the staff to focus on other projects including street repairs. Watkins also stated that a newer garbage truck would cost the village upwards of $150,000 to $200,000.

The village decided that a contract with a single waste hauler providing more residents and homes would lower the cost of services.

After a lengthy discussion period, the council transitioned to their regular council session where the board voted to unanimously approve changes to village ordinance 13. The board also authorized village manager Allison Watkins to negotiate and sign a contract with GFL.

The five-year contract is for residential curbside and dumpster services for citizens residing within the village limits. GFL will be the exclusive provider of waste hauling, disposal and recycling for residents. No other provider will be allowed to collect solid waste from residents. Commercial businesses within the village will be allowed to use a provider of their choice.

Residents violating ordinance 13 would receive a civil infraction, which would start at a ticket price of $150 and increase per infraction. In addition to the resident, the non-contracted waste removal entity will also be ticketed.

GFL will handle all the billing and collecting for the services with pricing set in the bidding process. The company will also provide curbside recycling for residents. Each homeowner will receive a 96-gallon rolling cart, which would be picked up weekly.

The $4.50 charge on customer’s utility bills will eventually be phased out as soon as the time frame to change over is identified.

Watkins will begin the process of phasing out the village garbage program, and the transition to GFL services will take several months. Watkins said that the village would look at a buy-back system for residents who already purchased garbage stickers. The cost of the stickers would be credited to their bills.

The proposed rates for the village and GFL solid waste contract are available on the Village of Newberry website.