In November 2013, Rantoul officials realized that 770 households in town did not pay for trash service. Instead, the garbage of thousands was being dropped in the country, snuck into dumpsters or disposed of at workplaces.
Residents were able to skirt the village’s waste removal requirement by not subscribing to either of the town’s two services.
So, after more than a year of deliberations, the village board decided this past spring to address the problem head-on by switching to a single hauler, making all residents pay the village a monthly rate.
“The big reason is to keep the community clean,” Village Administrator Jeff Fiegenschuh said at the time.
“It will allow us to make sure everyone is taking part and taking sanitation services,”
Plus, the change made garbage services much cheaper, the monthly price dropping from $26 to $12.67. And recycling went from not being included to twice-a-month pick-up.
“A big reason was to try to find a way to save costs,” said Fiegenschuh, who moved to Rantoul last fall after stops in David City, Neb., Princeton, Ill. and Windsor Heights, among others. “I had never lived in a town that had multiple haulers. Either the city would do it or there would be one single hauler.”
Most communities in central Illinois have multiple-haulers. Champaign, in fact, has nine different garbage companies serving the community. Urbana has eight.
“It’s been an ancient, long-fought battle,” said Matt Snyder, the president of Community Resource, the company that handled all of Urbana’s curbside recycling.
Michael La Due, a 30-year veteran of the Champaign city council, said the idea of going to a single-hauler system has been debated many times but never got anywhere.
But attitudes could be changing, La Due says: “It might time to renew the conversation.”
Clinton pulls switch
When local communities have discussed such a switch in the past, they have received significant pushback from garbage companies.
And they’re not the only ones.
La Due said residents have been extremely passionate about keeping their garbage hauler. At one council meeting, he remembers, a resident said they trusted their garbage man more than their doctor.
“Champaign has a strong tradition of private haulers,” said Mayor Deb Feinen, who doesn’t think the council would consider changing the system in place.
La Due has favored zoning, or splitting up the city — a certain hauler takes a specific area, while a different hauler gets a different area.
“We don’t want it to be a monopoly,” he said.
Clinton, the largest city in neighboring DeWitt County, just switched from an unofficial single-hauler system to multiple haulers after a Clinton-based company opened, Administrator Tim Followell said. Area Disposal had been the only service in town, but it wasn’t solidified in an agreement, he said.
“We don’t feel it’s appropriate to limit the options of our residents,” Followell said. “The council did not want to do that to a small start-up company.”
Fiegenschuh said he disagrees that single-hauler systems take away competition. He said customers benefit more from competition for a single-hauler bid because it saves them money.
Toll on roads
In addition to cheaper prices, a single-hauler system means less damage to the streets, though it’s hard to determine how much, said Chris Sokolowski, Champaign’s assistant city engineer.
“Nothing is simple,” he said. “Garbage trucks are heavier than a car, but not as heavy as a bus or a semi. They do contribute to the aging of the pavement, but you have to pick up garbage.”
City staff estimates that one semi-truck with a trailer can have the same impact on a road as 4,000 to 6,000 passenger cars.
Sokolowski said the average lifespan of a road is 30 to 40 years, with the three biggest factors being weather, the number of heavy vehicles using the road and drainage.
“The fewer heavy vehicles you have on a residential street, it would help the street condition,” he said.
Multi-hauler and single-hauler systems have their advantages and disadvantages, said Eric Shangraw, the municipal marketing manager at Area Disposal, which serves Rantoul.
In a single-hauler system, companies are able to offer cheaper service because they know the village will pay them.
“It’s looked at as a utility,” Shangraw said. “We don’t have that. Sometimes, a month or two goes by and we provided a service but haven’t gotten paid. We don’t have a lot of recourse. The price reflects that difference.”
He also said it’s both simpler and cheaper for one hauler to serve one street or cul-de-sac than it would be for multiple haulers to serve the same area.
Shangraw said multiple-hauler systems help keep companies alert.
“Competition keeps you on your toes,” he said.