Trash service opt-out for Carmel residents may be eliminated
After being tabled at its first meeting, the Carmel City Council will likely soon vote on a proposal to eliminate the “opt-out” option for trash collection services, meaning homeowners will be forced to use the provider that wins the city’s five-year contract. Currently, Republic Services has the contract.
The move has angered some residents who choose to use another service, such as Ray’s Trash. Some prefer Ray’s because it is known for collecting larger pick-ups and not just what fits in a bin that’s provided.
Steve Wallace, a Carmel resident in the northwest council district, said he’s disappointed by the council’s actions.
“Government has no business mandating consumer choices of private citizens,” he said. “Trash service is in that category. I like my current service with Ray’s.”
City Council President Ron Carter compares trash collection to any other public utility, such as water, sewer, gas or electricity. He said it doesn’t make sense to have everyone use different services and that he believes the measure will pass Jan. 18 once it is brought to a vote.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said the city is using its collective buying power to get a better rate for homeowners. He said the previous council added an “opt-out” after contract negotiations were done, and that worried Republic because they wanted to ensure they had a certain number of city subscribers in order to give the lowest rate.
“None of the trash companies were, in my opinion, treating the public fairly until we started our citywide program,” Brainard said.
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.
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 Sue Finkam said using one trash service is better for roads because one garbage truck can equal 5,500 cars in terms of wear and tear. She also said that more trucks on the road means property damage, noise and traffic backups.
Some residents said they don’t like wheeling out the large Republic trash bins to the curb, but Brainard said they can always request a smaller size for no charge.
While some residents have reported that they are receiving lower rates from Ray’s, city officials say that’s because Ray’s is trying to undercut Republic to hurt the contract and reopen bidding. Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider has warned residents about trusting deals from Ray’s since it’s not the same as a legal contract with the city.
Brainard said Ray’s had an opportunity to bid but they came in third out of three companies. He emphasized that this change in policy is not designed to benefit a specific company and that Ray’s – or another service provider – could win the next contract if they supply the best bid.
Brainard said he wants the next contract to allow for more heavy trash and heavy brush pickup. He wants there to be limits, however, because the extra cost for this service might be unfair to the residents who don’t need it.
Once it’s passed, the elimination of the opt-out will go into effect and everyone will have to be on the same service, which Brainard said is fair.
“I’m not aware of other cities that do an opt-out,” he said. “We have very, very low fees for this.”
Rick Sharp, former president of the City Council who lost in his bid to unseat Brainard as mayor, said he doesn’t like eliminating choice. Sharp and Brainard are both Republicans and Sharp said that should mean valuing the free market.
“That’s the most anti-Republican idea that I’ve ever heard of,” he said.