City mulls dumping refuse service provider

A recycling truck from SRC – the parent company of Forest Lake Sanitation – operates this week in Forest Lake. (Photo by Clint Riese)
A recycling truck from SRC – the parent company of Forest Lake Sanitation – operates this week in Forest Lake. (Photo by Clint Riese)

Fifty-year company could lose half its business to Blaine provider


Clint Riese
News Editor

A messy issue is making the rounds at City Hall, and its outcome will significantly impact a local business that is marking its 50th year in the community.

The city’s agreement with Forest Lake Sanitation expires July 30, and for the first time since at least 1989 – if not ever – the city has requested proposals from multiple refuse and recycling providers.

The current agreement was entered into in 1999 and extended for 10 years in 2004. The work was not put out for bid in 1999 or when the previous agreement was signed in 1989, according to Marge Strand, who with her husband Cameron owns Forest Lake Sanitation. The company has handled local disposal services since being founded in 1964, Strand said. The Strands purchased it in 1985.

For the sake of fiscal responsibility, the City Council and City Administrator Aaron Parrish have recently made it a practice to test the market by bidding out expiring contracts. In late 2012 the city switched its contracted engineering firm to Bolton and Menk from its longtime firm of choice, Stantec (formerly Bonestroo).

The council in January authorized a request for proposals regarding refuse and recycling services. In February, a review committee consisting of Parrish, Finance Director Ellen Paulseth and Council Members Ben Winnick and Susan Young analyzed the five proposals received. Three providers interviewed, and the council on March 24 authorized the committee to negotiate with both Forest Lake Sanitation and Blaine-based Walters Recycling and Refuse.

Estimated terms under a new agreement with Forest Lake Sanitation are not available, but Parrish said Walters Recycling and Refuse has offered pricing that would save homeowners an average of $65 per year from the current rates.

Strand said losing Forest Lake would halve the workload of the 30-employee company.

“It’s going to be devastating to us,” she said.

Upon hearing of the city’s plan for bidding, the Forest Lake native said she felt like a wife of 25 years who was being left for somebody “younger, prettier and cheaper.”

“It just knocked the socks off of us,” Strand said.

The company has long supported community causes such as Forest Lake’s Fourth of July celebration and the high school rodeo in Hugo, Strand said, noting Forest Lake Sanitation spends $1.5 million annually between wages and purchasing local goods and services.

“We try to keep a positive attitude (about the negotiations),” she said. “We’ve had excellent references from people in Forest Lake who came to our defense and were very upset along with us because we’ve done so much in giving back to the community.”

Agreement details

Regardless of the provider, the city expects the final refuse and recycling agreement to include several new options for residents, such as a seasonal subscription for curbside yard waste removal and access to extra recycling carts at no cost. Down the road, the city could consider adding the collection of compostable organics to the agreement.

Recycling service would continue on an every-other-week, single-stream basis.

Once negotiations are complete, the review committee will make a recommendation to the council. Parrish expects a decision to be made this spring. The new agreement could be for five years with options for up to two one-year extensions.

He said this week that the committee will consider all factors.

“We’ve had a long-standing relationship (with Forest Lake Sanitation), but we have to balance that out with other items, and one of those is obviously price,” he said. “Ultimately we’re negotiating on behalf of all the households in Forest Lake.”

  • Putting contracts to bid is almost always intelligent for government to do. I give credit to the city for doing this on the refuse contract. It sounds as if the city now can decide to give homeowners $65 per year savings and that seems to be common sense.

    • Marge Strand

      To correct misleading information, the monthly dollar difference is due to our larger container size. In actuality, the difference per month is less than a cup of Kodiak coffee. Significant? Don’t think so given the donations to the community and the local employment and local dollars spent.

      • Marge – Really? Just want ‘misleading’ information did I disseminate? Rather, I pointed out the good reasons to send for bids. I’d rather save the $65 a year so that I can choose to buy that ‘cup of coffee’ or whatever else I CHOOSE to do. It seems that you’re advocating the public not have a choice. That’s sad.

        Also, you’re the one with misleading information. Any garbage hauler will be employing local employees. It’s not exactly an e-commerce business where the guy driving a truck will be in a foreign country. Give it a break and let the citizens of our community get one too … less expensive garbage service.

        • PTA Mom

          What is wrong with you? Are you willing to divulge your donation records? Who elected you the blowhard of the Forest Lake Times as in a self-important egomaniac who likes to toot his own horn. No wonder the Republicans are on the way out what with people like you dragging them down. Whatever happened to civility.

          • PTA Mom – My original statement was quite civil. The response from the owner of the more expensive garbage hauler was insulting and they made the claims about their donations, not me.

          • In the last month I’ve donated several thousand dollars worth of stuff to Family Pathways Thrift Store in Forest Lake. They in turn donate to many local causes such as the Teen Center and Lakes Life Care Center. Both of these organizations are things I strongly support in our community.

          • PTA Mom

            What does what you donate to Pathways have anything to do with this? Typically one doesn’t toot their own horn as in trying to prove their goodness. The Bible says to keep it secret. To question another’s donations as in give me proof just relates to your core values of severe mistrust in others. How can one serve or hope to serve others as a potential elected official when they look down or mistrust those whom they are to represent. Quite simply they can’t.

          • Obviously you didn’t read that someone asked me the question. You’re obviously so partisan that you’re blind to anything good I’ve done for our community. That’s simply sad.

          • PTA Mom

            A Biblical “partisan”? Oh…who else on these Forest Lake Times comments section continuously keeps telling us all how great they are, how smart or how charitable they are? Hmm? Seems to me you’re the only one…aren’t you? Condescending? I would think most definitely. But we accept you anyway…regardless

      • Also, Marge, owner of the MORE EXPENSIVE garbage company, are you willing to divulge your donation records so we may compare them? Should we force the citizens of our community to be required to use your monopoly that charges more on the basis of where you donate funds? I’d rather leave it up to each citizen to decide what donations they can afford and more importantly to the organizations they choose.

  • Randall J.

    “donating thousands to family pathways” mean you dropped some junk off there and you are going to claim that amount for your tax deductions. I don’t think PTA mom is “blind to anything you’ve done for the community’ she is well aware of all you have done for the community. Which everyone would agree is nothing positive. PTA mom, stay involved, you are on the right track!

    • PTA Mom

      Thank you so kindly. Let’s support our community in a positive way

    • A close friend of mine is employed by their facility and I’m keenly aware of what is ‘junk’ and what has retail value. I’ve not donated any ‘junk’ as you claim and they’ve been quite pleased with the donations. Sadly, you can’t even see my obvious generosity as a positive. Take your blinders off and see reality.