A new contract between the city of Northfield and Dick's Sanitation Inc. will keep the private company providing service to city residents for the next six years. The new contract also calls for a new, smaller waste cart, and potentially an expanded yard waste pickup service. (Northfield News file photo)

After several months of conversations to work out the details, Northfield leaders decided March 5 what was seemingly inevitable — the city will continue contracting Dick’s Sanitation Inc. for waste and recycling pickup services.

The latest iteration of the contract, though, opens up some new options for city residents. Those include smaller containers (and therefore lower costs) for garbage disposal, larger containers for recycling, a potential expansion of the yard waste pickup program and annual waste audits to determine what types of waste Northfield is producing.

Meanwhile, an option for implementing an organic yard waste service is built into the contract for future consideration, but the service will not be offered for the time being.

The Northfield City Council approved a new six-year contract with DSI, starting in April and running to 2025. Both councilors and members of the Environmental Quality Commission agreed they’re happy with the Dick’s Sanitation services and see positive collaboration continuing into the future.

“I think we’ve had an excellent relationship with Dick’s Sanitation,” Councilor Erica Zweifel said. “They’ve been very accommodating, very flexible.”

A major development within the new contract is the offering of 20-gallon waste disposal carts. Presently, DSI offers city residents 35-, 64- and 96-gallon containers. Those who are producing less waste that the 35-gallon containers can hold might be interested in utilizing the 20-gallon containers at a lower rate. The council will need to establish the 20-gallon rate at a future meeting.

Another significant change is the addition of 96-gallon recycling containers, in addition to the currently available 64-gallon containers. Residents will be able to choose which size container they prefer.

If at least 200 residents in the city sign up, the contract also calls for DSI to begin a weekly yard waste pickup service in the spring, summer and fall. Northfield Utilities Manager Justin Wagner said the yard waste containers would be 64 or 96 gallons (residents can request either size). The cost to a resident for the service would be $90 annually.

Residents can also continue to utilize the tagged yard waste service, in which they purchase yard waste tags at Family Fare in the downtown. Properly tagged yard waste bags are picked up April 1 to May 15 on collection days in the spring and Oct. 1 to Nov. 15 in the fall.

The other notable contract change between the city and Dick’s Sanitation is the addition of an annual waste audit. The contract calls for DSI to select one truck with a full load of garbage, empty it onto a flat surface and sift through the pile to identify and report to the city what types of waste residents are disposing. Specifically, city leaders are looking for the amounts of organic materials being disposed.

While leaders have a keen eye on a potential citywide organic food waste pickup service, they’re holding back for the time being. The city previously piloted such a service in 2014, but leaders didn’t move forward with implementation. Since then, a local business, Northfield Curbside Composting, started offering the service in 2017 and reported a strong start to the business in early 2018.

Some city leaders, though, are still interested in making the program readily available through the already offered DSI services, and the possibility of starting organic food waste collection was written into this latest contract. The contract even specifically proposes a starting fee of $7.97 per household if the service is implemented in the future.

The city, led by the Environmental Quality Commission, is presently working on a Climate Action Plan, and leaders may decide through that process whether Northfield should offer the service to residents or leave it to private businesses.

Reach Associate Editor Philip Weyhe at 507-645-1115 or follow him on Twitter @nfnphilweyhe.

Northfield News and Faribault Daily News reporter. Email at pweyhe@northfieldnews.com. Call at 507-333-3132.

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