Whitefish trash rates rise with new bear-proof cans


Residents of Whitefish will see their monthly fees for garbage service drop from their current rate of $10.78 to $17.25 with the arrival of new bear-resistant containers. Republic Services increased its rates by $5.96 and the city’s administrative fee increased by 51 cents.

Whitefish City Council approved a resolution adopting new fees for solid waste disposal services at a June 20 meeting. During this meeting, the council also learned that Republic Services is ready to work with the city to continue laneway service for some even after the new animal-resistant containers are used.

For several years, the City of Whitefish has worked with Republic Services and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to identify solutions to minimize bear attractants in Whitefish and reduce the risk of human-bear conflict. All parties identified the primary attractant for bears in Whitefish as unsecured waste, which was the focus of discussion.

At a City Council meeting on March 7, staff were tasked with negotiating an amendment to the current agreement with Republic Services to update rates, extend the term of the agreement and require animal-resistant containers.

This amendment was approved by the board on May 2 and includes 95 gallon containers for all residential accounts with no purchase or delivery charges. The term of the contract is 10 years with an annual rate increase of 3.25%.

The move to individual containers meant a change in how they had to be serviced due to logistics and aisle limitations. Customers used to using 300-gallon aisle containers should now move an individual 95-gallon container to the sidewalk each week.

For weeks after the new contract was signed, several members of the public raised concerns about the change in garbage collection. Most of the complaints came from “The Avenues” section of town where homes don’t have driveways or an easy way to move a container to the sidewalk.

According to the city, the main argument is that those without a street-side entrance will have considerable problems getting their containers out to the curb, especially during the winter. Additionally, there are also legitimate parking concerns preventing Republic from being able to provide curbside service.

“I was able to meet the Services of the Republic. We looked at alley conditions all over the city. Republic drivers have quite a few challenges right now, even with the 300 gallon containers… it’s definitely going to get tougher for them,” said Craig Workman, Whitefish Public Works Manager. “That said, Republic recognizes the public pressure we are under…and they are prepared to work with us to maintain lane service for customers who currently receive lane service.”

The city says it will take very strict guidelines that will be strongly enforced for the continuation of lane services. Workman said he began working with Republic Services to create the necessary guidelines.

“There’s going to be a pretty robust education campaign to make sure we can keep lane service going,” Workman said.

The new monthly residential fee for garbage service will be $17.25, which includes Republic’s cost increase and the city’s $1.50 administrative fee. City Manager Dana Smith said the administrative fee is used to cover salaries, software increases for the use of utility billing software and increased postage and mailing costs. .

“We haven’t raised rates in two years for garbage services and Republic has passed on a 3% increase each year. They nibbled away at our administrative costs…so we’re recouping that loss,” Smith said.

Councilor Steve Qunell expressed concern about the fee increase and how it might affect residents of Whitefish.

“When we originally looked at this, the number was $15.75, which was already a significant increase,” Qunell said. “…it’s easy for some people to absorb these costs, but it’s not easy for everyone.

Smith explained that administrative costs were not included when the city originally presented the rates to council because they did not know where the increased administrative costs would go and offered some perspective by reminding council that the residents will see a decrease of $40 in property taxes. this will help offset increases in utility bills.

The transition period to bear-resistant containers is expected to last until the end of August 2022.


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