Carmel City Council eliminates trash-opt out for residents

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After a 5-2 vote by the Carmel City Council, every resident in Carmel will have to use the same trash removal service and won’t have the ability to opt-out. Currently, the city’s contract is with Republic Services, but many residents spoke at the Jan. 18 council meeting favor of another provider, Ray’s Trash.

The change won’t go into effect until 2017, and it’s possible that Ray’s could win the next five-year contract, which would be decided before the elimination of the opt-out goes into effect.

Councilors Carol Schleif and Laura Campbell voted in opposition after residents spoke against the change for more than an hour during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“A lot of residents in my district contacted me and were against it, and I thought they had very valid concerns,” Campbell said. “That’s why I voted against it.”

Jan Douglas, a resident of Brookshire Village, said she doesn’t like Republic’s bigger trash cans. She said she’s concerned about seniors not managing the totes.

“One size rarely fits all. Republic doesn’t fit our neighborhood,” she said.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said the move will save residents’ money and also reduce wear and tear on the roads with fewer trucks. He said one garbage truck can equal 5,500 vehicles on the roads.

“The buying power for one hundred percent of our community as opposed to ninety percent of the community means we can get a better rate,” Brainard said. “We will save people money.”

Carmel residents who use the city trash service provided by Republic pay $9.90 per month. Sue Maki, Carmel’s manager of environmental initiatives and education, said she did not know the monthly rate for Ray’s, but when the last bid for service went out Ray’s would have charged $14.68 per month. The Republic bid at the time was $8.94 per month per home.

Several residents e-mailed Current in Carmel with figures claiming to pay less than $9 a month with Ray’s.

“I just wanted you to know that we don’t pay $14.58, a figure that makes Rays look completely out of line,” said Dee Cooler, a Carmel resident.

Maki said it’s possible that some residents pay lower rates with Ray’s but that Ray’s didn’t offer those rates citywide when it came to bid for the contract.

As of December 2015, Republic had 23,693 customers in Carmel, and about 2,600 people – or about 11 percent of the city’s households – used other services, Maki said. Republic must have at least 20,000 customers to retain its contract, which ends Dec. 31, 2016.

Councilor Jeff Worrell said he understands that one out of 10 people choose Ray’s instead of Republic, but he believes he has to listen to facts and not emotion. He said that’s why he voted in favor of the change.

“I believe it’s what’s best for the majority of the citizens of Carmel,” he said. “And I apologize to those that are disappointed.”

Maki said it’s possible that Ray’s could win the contract next time if they meet the bid requirements, which are to meet the city’s stated service guidelines at the lowest price.

“This isn’t about Ray’s or the opt-out, it’s about getting the residents a great program,” Maki said. “Competition is there because every contract has an expiration.”

Maki noted that the next trash removal contract will hopefully include weekly recycling pickup for the city.

Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider said he was a 20-year customer of Ray’s and he was a fan, but he said Ray’s lost the bid fair and square. He said they win bids in many other cities but now they claim that the lack of an “opt-out” would take away the residents’ right to choose.

“Nobody was done wrong, they have every right in the world,” he said.

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