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Published August 20, 2013, 02:35 PM

Grand Forks City Council kills recycling expansion

In a move that left some Grand Forks City Council members shocked and others smiling, Mayor Mike Brown cast a tie-breaker vote Monday against the proposed expansion of the city’s recycling program.

By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald

In a move that left some Grand Forks City Council members shocked and others smiling, Mayor Mike Brown cast a tie-breaker vote Monday against the proposed expansion of the city’s recycling program.

“Why spend $2.4 million when it’s working just fine,” Brown said of the current system.

The expansion was part of a proposed six-year contract with firm Waste Management. Its price tag would have included the program’s current costs plus money for new recycling bins, alley pickup service, new trucks to collect recyclables and other various costs for the contract’s term.

Council member Tyrone Grandstrand felt the decision went against residents’ wishes.

“What you did tonight was shameful,” Grandstrand said to Brown during council comments. “You knew what a majority of people who came here wanted.”

With the proposed contract defeated, Public Works Director Todd Feland said his department will bring forward another contract that extends the program’s current level of service.

That contract is estimated to raise the city’s mandatory recycling fee 10 cents instead of 30 to 40 cents as the expansion would have, putting the recycling charge for next year at about $2.52 per month.

Change of heart

The defeat of the contract comes after a vote in favor of the expansion earlier this summer.

The council voted in June to approve the expansion of the curbside recycling service by a vote of 5-2. This time around, council member Doug Christensen joined Dana Sande and Terry Bjerke in dissent.

Christensen said he could not vote for the contract if residents were not contacted and allowed to pick which size recycling bin they wanted. The expansion would have provided a majority of households with a 90-gallon container.

“Why can’t we ask people what they want first?” Christensen asked. “This is something that should be fine tuned before you unleash it on the public.”

With the absence of council member Ken Vein, the council found itself split down the middle. Following the mayor’s decision, Grandstrand called for a new vote to be held when Vein is present.

However, a motion to reconsider a vote can only be submitted by a council member who voted with the prevailing side, according to city law. As of Monday night, no council member on the dissenting side said they would make such a motion.

Moving forward

With the proposed contract defeated, the city will fulfill its current contract with Waste Management that ends this year, according to Feland. A new contract would likely have a similar term in the neighborhood of five to seven years.

Feland is confident the program will continue successfully without the expansion for some time.

“The current level of service is good, and we should be proud of it,” he said. “Maybe in six years we’ll be ready for an expansion — if not sooner.”

The sentiment was echoed by council members voting for the program’s expansion.

“I feel that tonight’s vote is contrary to the strong support demonstrated by citizens for an expanded recycling program,” council member Bret Weber said. “But in the long run, we will eventually move to an expanded recycling program.”

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