Bloomington council ponders pros and cons of privatizing garbage collection

Bloomington solid waste collection
Bloomington aldermen are considering several options to reduce costs of garbage pick up, including significantly cutting back on bulk waste collection. (WJBC file photo)

By Howard Packowitz

BLOOMINGTON – The Bloomington City Council, trying to overcome a nearly $3 million budget deficit, will soon decide whether city government should be in the business of picking up garbage.

Aldermen plan to vote in the coming weeks on a resolution directing staff to look at the advantages and disadvantages of contracting with a business to provide solid waste pick-up.

PODCAST: Listen to Scott’s interview with Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen and Public Works Director Jim Karch.

That’s the preference of a four-member citizens’ budget review team formed by Alderman Diana Hauman.

She said garbage collection is not a core government service.

“I know I’m probably in the minority,” said Hauman.

“To me, a core service is something you can not procure on your own, fire protection, police protection, streets, water, getting water to your house. In a city, you can’t do those things,” Hauman also said.

Meantime, Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen said his staff has prepared what he described as a less extreme option.

“What we’ve tried to do here today, though, is to show you an option which would keep nearly the same level of service, to reduce most of the deficit, and to keep most of our employees doing the same thing. That’s kind of the middle road,” Rasmussen said.

Options include reducing bulk waste collection to just twice a year instead of every two weeks. Instead, there would be extended hours at a bulk waste drop-off center.

The city would reduce brush collection to just once a month or once every quarter. The council is considering higher solid waste fees, and boosting enforcement and fines for dumping.

The city might also create morning and evening shifts for garbage pick-up, instead of all employees working a single shift. Staffers say half the vehicles would be required to run at the same time, reducing maintenance costs.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at [email protected]


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