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Milton might contract with Janesville for waste pick-up

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Neil Johnson
Marcia Nelesen
August 19, 2011

City officials in Janesville and Milton are investigating whether they can save money by sharing services.


Janesville recently submitted a bid to pick up Milton’s trash and recycling. The bid would bring in additional revenue for Janesville, improve efficiency and encourage regional cooperation, Janesville officials said.


Milton’s five-year contract with Waste Management is set to expire. Milton City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said the city decided in June to seek proposals for garbage services because Waste Management’s costs “have gone up substantially.”


Milton ran its own garbage and recycling service with city employees until 2005, when it decided to privatize the service, Schuetz said. The current system is not paid with property taxes. Residents and commercial customers are charged a fee for pickup.


Schuetz said Milton officials reached out to Janesville a few weeks ago in the interest of “good government policy” to see if Janesville could offer savings on garbage and recycling service.


Meanwhile, Milton city staff is reviewing proposals from “four or five” garbage vendors, including Waste Management and possibly Milton’s own department of public works.


Schuetz said the proposals are pending full review, but a quick glance shows savings.


“Preliminary conversations with staff would suggest we will be able to experience some cost savings with Janesville or some of the other proposals,” Schuetz said. “Just the numeric dollars Janesville charges for some of its garbage services is on its surface less.”


The public works committee will take up a discussion on the city’s garbage collection options in September, Schuetz said.


Eric Levitt, Janesville city manager, said the city would continue looking for other ways to work with other cities. Milton is considering whether to contract with Janesville for commercial inspections, for instance.


Schuetz confirmed the two cities are in “informal” talks about other possible service partnerships, but he declined to give details.


“We’re looking for ways that we can work regionally with other cities,” Levitt said. “It’s a real possible benefit for both communities.”


Janesville engineers recently were project managers on a Whitewater project.


“Certain services, because of our size, we can provide certain efficiencies that a smaller town can’t provide. At the same time, we can probably provide a competitive price.


“When you look at what our service is and the cost versus what other communities get for trash and recycling, I’d say we are very competitive,” Levitt said.


How would both communities benefit?

Milton doesn’t own a garbage truck or a person to operate it, Janesville Assistant City Manager Jay Winzenz said. Those would be large expenses for a smaller city such as Milton if it wanted to start its own garbage collection service.


The arrangement would give Janesville flexibility in staffing and equipment, Winzenz said.


Janesville would buy another truck, with the cost spread over the five-year contract, he said. Trucks often are down for repair or maintenance, and an additional vehicle would give Janesville more flexibility in its operation, he said.


Janesville also is looking at automated collection using trucks with mechanical arms to lift and dump garbage bins.


“I don’t know what effect that might have on staffing needs,” Winzenz said.


The city could maintain its staff with the Milton proposal.


“It’s not so much what the benefit is to us,” Winzenz said. “If we can provide this service to Milton and save Milton residents, really, we all benefit as a community.


“We benefit because they’re able to have trash collection at a lower cost. We’re covering our costs, plus making a little bit on the proposal, and we’ve got some additional flexibility in terms of vehicles and staffing.


“Probably, some of the benefits are more intangible,” Winzenz said. “There may be other options for us to help them out.”


Said Levitt: “Given the environment we’re in, we have to look at every opportunity for intergovernmental cooperation. Milton is a mile away.


“It allows everyone to maintain their own identity, but we get those efficiencies.”



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