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Article updated: 2/4/2014 12:02 AM

Des Plaines' new garbage contract lowers rates, especially for seniors

By Christopher Placek

Senior citizens in Des Plaines will be getting a discount on the amount they pay for garbage collection -- one part of a new 7-year waste hauling contract approved Monday by the city council.

City officials have been negotiating for the past month over terms of a new contract with Mount Prospect-based Republic Services, which has an existing seven-year agreement for garbage pickup in Des Plaines due to expire March 31.

Under terms of the new contract, residents over the age of 65 will receive an 8 percent discount on garbage pick up -- $15 per customer per month. All other residents in Des Plaines will pay $16.30 per customer per month -- a $5.59 savings over the current rate.

Republic is offering the senior discount to 2,000 customers; the city will cover discounts beyond that number. There's an estimated 1,500 to 2,300 possible Des Plaines households that would be eligible for the senior rate, according to Tim Oakley, the city's director of public works and engineering.

City officials say the new rates will result in an annual savings of $1 million for single-family and multifamily-unit residential customers.

Republic is permitted to increase rates each year in an amount not to exceed the increase in the consumer price index, though it couldn't exceed 2.5 percent.

The council's unanimous approval of a new garbage contract comes after earlier debate in December and January over which firms should be considered. The city issued a request for proposals last fall, in hopes of decreasing costs of the current agreement. Republic and five other firms responded to the RFP, but only Republic and two other firms were on city staff's narrowed down list of "favored" vendors after submitting the least costly bids.

Some aldermen cried foul over how the process was conducted, and requested that all six proposals be considered. The council voted 6-2 in January to authorize negotiations to begin with Republic.

One of the aldermen who voted in opposition in January, 6th Ward Alderman Mark Walsten, said Monday that he was pleased to see the senior rate brought up in negotiations with Republic. He noted that other vendors he wanted to consider had also offered a senior discount.

"I think without bringing this up during the negotiations that this possibly wouldn't have occurred, if some of the people on this council didn't push what some of the bidders had to offer with the senior discount," Walsten said.

The level of service will remain the same under the new contract -- weekly collection of solid waste and recyclable materials, and weekly seasonal yard waste collection. City public works crews will continue to collect leafs, despite earlier conversation that the city might seek an outside vendor for that work.

Also under the new contract, Republic pledges to convert its trucks to compressed natural gas by Sept. 1, 2017.

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