Kalispell Considers Expanding Garbage Service

By Beacon Staff

Taking out the trash is an everyday task for Kalispell’s garbage trucks. It’s also a chore with growing demand and revenue potential.

Since state lawmakers passed a bill in 2011 that made it easier for cities to provide garbage and solid waste services in annexed areas, Kalispell has added more than 200 stops to its regular garbage route, bringing in more than $60,000 in additional revenue.

After updating its Solid Waste Division Business Plan, the Public Works Department is recommending the city further expand its service area to six subdivisions with 500-600 possible new residential customers. Director Susie Turner presented the updated plan to city council at a work session April 8 and identified areas in city limits that are already near existing collection routes. They include the Willow Glen area with Leisure Heights and The Willows, and the Whitefish Stage area with Buffalo Stage, Fairway Boulevard, Glacier Commons and Stillwater Bluffs.

“Our goal was to make city garbage available to citizens that wanted it and to ensure we provide quality service at a reasonable rate,” Turner said.

Turner said the expanded service would not require additional staff or equipment, but there would need to be a restructuring of current route schedules. Ideally, the city would implement the expansion plan by July 1, Turner said.

The proposal raised a murmur of concern about the public sector competing against private business, in this case the city of Kalispell squaring off against Evergreen Disposal, which also provides solid waste services to area residents and businesses.

Councilor Bob Hafferman called the proposed expansion “predation” and criticized the possibility of taking away customers from the Evergreen company.

Customers can choose between the two garbage pickups, City Attorney Charles Harball noted.

“It’s open market,” he said.

The average residential rate for city garbage services is roughly $9 per month, according to the public works department. The average monthly rate with Evergreen Disposal is roughly $15, according to Evergreen Disposal.

Josh Brown, the new district manager at Evergreen, said his company’s costs are higher because of the large service area and travel costs, which explains the steeper rate.

“We certainly want to be competitive,” he said, adding, “We are in process of evaluating costs to do the best we can to compete.”
Brown acknowledged the difficulty of competing with Kalispell’s Solid Waste Division, which operates as a not-for-profit entity.

The proposed route expansion would overlap with areas on the private garbage trucks’ route, he said. The city’s expanded service in recent years has resulted in the loss of commercial customers, Brown said.

Turner noted that the current proposal is in residential service areas.

Mayor Tammi Fisher said she’s opposed to the public sector competing with private enterprise and urged city staff to explore dropping commercial services if future residential demands rise.

Turner said any further plans to expand residential or commercial services should be reviewed annually to determine when additional personnel and equipment would be needed, because the city’s solid waste equipment facility is at capacity.

The plan will be presented to council for approval at an upcoming meeting.

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