ELY – A recent complaint about the city of Ely’s sanitation service contract prompted the city council to host a study session here on Tuesday night to hear more from the public.“It …
ELY – A recent complaint about the city of Ely’s sanitation service contract prompted the city council to host a study session here on Tuesday night to hear more from the public.
“It is hard to get a full understanding of just where the community is on this,” said Sanitation Committee chair Al Forsman, who voiced his own support for the job G-Men Environmental Services has done for the city over the years.
“We have a very good service, but there have been questions about cost and pickup dates, but I want to see the depth of where this is with the public,” Forsman said.
Mayor Chuck Novak reminded Forsman that the purpose of the study session was for council members to explore an issue and not to hold a public hearing on any matters. “This is for us to hold a discussion,” Novak said. He asked Forsman what direction he intends to go with the issue.
Forsman said he is in favor of having multiple waste disposal carriers within a community. “I feel that with bidding on the contract, that is where we have capitalism and competition with multiple companies able to bid on (providing garbage pickup service). The city has a responsibility to the residents to provide this service, and it is my intent that we have one contract for one bidder to provide residential garbage service,” he said.
But Forsman’s aide some commercial businesses feel that their needs aren’t currently being met and he wants to see that part of the city’s garbage service contract addressed.
Council member Heidi Omerza questioned whether it makes sense for the city to split up the collection contract that way. “My concern is our city’s size. I don’t want to put a business out of business simply because we are parceling it out. We are splitting the baby, essentially. We are telling a business they can only do one thing, and not both. That is my main concern. I have no interest in splitting up our residential and commercial sanitation.” She doubted any formal complaints have been filed with the city.
When pressed for a response, Forsman said complaints have been discussed at Sanitation Committee meetings.
“How many?” Omerza asked.
“Not many,” Forsman responded.
The waste management issue has apparently come to light because one local grocery store owner complained last spring to the Sanitation Committee that Sunday garbage pick-up service is not available in Ely.
Clerk-Treasurer Harold Langowski noted that the G-Men contract calls for trash pick-up to occur after 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, or Monday through Saturday on a holiday week. “There is no requirement for garbage pick-up on Sundays, but if that’s the direction you want the Sanitation Committee to go, we can look at requiring a contractor to have pick-up service seven days a week.”
He noted that the garbage pick-up contract is required to be put out for proposals. “When we put this (current contract with G-Men) together five-plus years ago, those who were on the council supported it. There was one proposal received. That’s how the contract was awarded,” Langowski said. “This was not something that was just thrown together and no one else was offered the contract.”
He added, “In the 12 years I have been involved with this, there has been one complaint and it was about service on Saturdays and Sundays.”
G-Men owner J.J. Day brought his family and many company employees with him to the study session. “Since I bought this company in 2011, I have done nothing but improve service, equipment and contract value. Everything we’ve done since day one is to improve over previous contracts.”
He said he heard no complaints from the council at the study session. “I am struggling to understand what I’ve done to deserve to be attacked,” Day said. “My contract was put out for fair bid and there was not one player that came forward. There was no other interested party.”
He highlighted the investment in new pick-up equipment, new garbage containers, and well-paid employees to maintain garbage service in the city of Ely. “I put everything into this company.”
Day read a letter of re-consideration he presented to the council, as well as a glowing letter of recommendation from a fellow soldier he served with in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Day also touched on the issue of recycling in the city of Ely, particularly the effort by another party to try to establish a curbside pick-up recycling service. Apparently, the owner of Safe Ride had proposed collecting from residents and hauling recyclable materials to the county transfer station.
That effort hit a roadblock, however, before it got started. G-Men’s contract calls for them to be allowed to pick up all household trash, including cans and bottles, empty cartons, crates, boxes, wrapping materials, magazines, discarded toys, discarded clothing and similar materials.
“Recycling is not affordable in Ely,” Day said. “The way it was presented (by Safe Ride) to be collected was not legitimate or legal.” He added, “To have recycled material picked up here at the curb would likely be double the cost of garbage pick-up.”
Representatives from several Ely businesses, including Dairy Queen, J&L Hardware, Merhar’s Ace Hardware, even the mayor of Winton, spoke at the study session in support of Day, his business model, and G-Men’s support for the community. The Ely grocery store owner did attend the study session but did not address the council.
Novak said the Sanitation Committee will continue to address the issue.
Meeting notices will be published in the Ely Timberjay, the city of Ely’s official newspaper.