Despite city-mandated garbage service, DM Disposal must chase after unsigned citizens

This month, nearly 500 letters went out from DM Disposal, the city's waste pickup provider, reminding residents who are not signed up for the service of the city ordinance requiring mandatory garbage collection.

Despite a city ordinance requiring mandatory garbage collection service within city boundaries, hundreds of residents of Bonney Lake aren’t signed up.

This month, nearly 500 letters went out from DM Disposal, the city’s waste pickup provider, reminding residents who are not signed up for the service of the law.

“This phenomenon is something they are seeing throughout their service area,” said Bonney Lake Facilities and Special Projects Manager Gary Leaf.

Leaf said the purpose of mandatory garbage service in the city addresses two concerns, the primary being the health and safety of people in the city.

“It’s an economic issue as well as a health and safety issue,” he said.

Leaf said the rates in the contract with DM Disposal are based on the entire population of Bonney Lake paying in, thereby lowering costs for DM.

“It costs more to pick up from fewer customers,” Leaf said. “It’s an economies of scale thing.”

Because the cost of running garbage trucks and providing garbage collection is so high, when there are homes in a particular area that do not participate, that throws off the costs for the company.

“The rates are based on the assumption that you are providing service to every house on the block that’s occupied,” said DM Disposal Operation Manager Mark Gingrich.

But the main purpose of the letter was to educate residents of the law requiring service, Gingrich said. The letter sent to homes does not mention costs, instead focusing on health and safety reasons.

“For instance,” the letter reads, “mandatory refuse service minimizes the accumulation of residential garbage that may attract rodents and pests.”

The city council about three years ago adopted an ordinance allowing the city to fine residents who do not have refuse service, though Leaf said it has not been enforced thus far due to lagging economy and the city’s not wanting to put an additional burden on taxpayers.

At the Dec. 11 city council meeting, one resident complained about the letter and explained that because of her family’s three large dogs, they routinely surpass DM’s weight limit and receive huge overage charges.

Rachel Barnard told the council she was being charged an additional $100 a month for half-filled garbage cans due to the waste form her Great Danes pushing them over the weight limit.

Instead, they take their waste to the transfer station on South Prairie Road instead of paying DM, something technically not allowed by the city code.

“As a resident, I don’t feel like the monopoly of having only one option for refuse service is appropriate,” she said.

Mayor Neil Johnson said he planned to bring the issue to the council early next year for discussion at a workshop. Johnson said he would like the council to review the regulations and contract and potentially even move to a multiple carrier service or at least allow additional choices, though he said such a move would probably affect the city’s contract with DM as well as rates throughout the city.

But Johnson also said the number of people not contracting with DM was increased dramatically in recent years, up to nearly 500 from less than 200.

But Leaf said he is not sure there would be any savings to most residents by dropping the service, since most residents pay $22 per month to have garbage and recycling removed and minimum dump fee at the transfer station is $25.

As of now, there are no plans to begin using the city’s ability to fine those not signed up for service, but that could change.

The city’s five-year contract with DM Disposal was last negotiated in 2009.

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