As Brookfield’s village board considers whether to renew its refuse/recycling management contract with the Chicago-based Groot Waste Management, the company is offering to lower rates for single-family homes for the next four years. 

During a Jan. 13 meeting of the board’s Committee of the Whole, Village Manager Timothy Wiberg laid out the current state of the negotiations and asked for further direction. He said that, while he understood the reservations about locking Brookfield into a six-year contract, no other contractor could offer a better deal than what Groot proposed, the company has done a good job so far and any new contractor would require a steep learning curve.

Trustee Edward Cote suggested using the fee to help replenish the garbage fund by charging residents slightly more than what Groot would get under the contract and keeping the difference. And while some other trustees had reservations about certain specifics, the board as a whole was leaning in favor of the contract. The trustees are expected to vote on it in February, most likely during the Feb. 10 meeting. 

While Brookfield’s original Groot contract was set to expire effective Aug. 1, 2019, the village wound up getting two extensions to give both parties time to negotiate a new contract. The most recent extension will expire on May 31, 2020. While the original contact called for 3-percent annual increases, the rates were frozen during the extensions.

The new contract would run for the next six years starting June 1, 2020. For the first year, Groot would lower the rate for single-family homes from $24.80 a month to $23 a month. The rate would increase by 3 percent every year, but that would mean that it would be four years before it increases enough to reach the current rate. For multi-unit properties, Groot would leave the current rate frozen for the first year and apply 3-percent increases for the remaining five years. 

As Wiberg explained to trustees, it’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison between rates in Brookfield and other municipalities.

“One of the unique things about Brookfield collection is that our single family areas are almost exclusively served from the alley, as posited to most suburbs, where collection is from the curbside,” he said. 

This requires Groot to use more old-school methods of garbage collection – but due to the layout of Brookfield streets and the way the village handles parking, curbside collection would be impractical. 

That said, Wiberg said he was able to find 8 or 9 communities that also use alleys for garbage collection – and found that the rates Groot is proposing would be “below the median for comparable towns’ hauling rates.”

In addition to the rates, Groot offered to do two E-Waste collection events – that is, it would collect electronics that can’t be tossed in with the regular trash – twice a year. And Wiberg emphasized that, in all the time Brookfield has contracted the company, there haven’t been any issues.

“If we were to seek bids, and if we were to change haulers, it could be a very disruptive process, especially when you have a hauler servicing [as long] as Groot has,” he added. 

Cote suggested one change to the proposed contract. The village needs to replenish its garbage fund, he argued, and it can do it by adding a surcharge to the fee. In other words, Groot would get paid $23 for the first year and keep getting 3 percent increases over the next four years, but the homeowners would actually be charged $24.50 for all four years. Brookfield would use the difference to replenish the garbage fund. That way, Cote said in a follow-up interview, homeowners would still get lower rates than before and the garbage fund would be taken care of.

“[The funding] can be used for alley graders, and trash receptacles,” he told the board.

Wiberg said that he was open to looking into something along those lines. 

 Trustee Michael Garvey said he agreed with Wiberg’s arguments, especially in regards to how disruptive having a new contractor take over could be. 

Trustee Katie Kaluzny said she had reservations about making a long-term commitment – particularly since the village might miss an opportunity to do composting if it sticks with Groot. She also wondered if Groot could do something to help educate residents about how to avoid “contaminating” recycling bins by including something that doesn’t belong.

“I already had a discussion with Groot and they’re on board,” responded Assistant Village Manager George Issakoo. “So, certainly, we can put something in there.”