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Haulers could sue over lost customers

Published (3/2/2012)
By Nick Busse
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Trash haulers could be given legal recourse against cities that take away their customers.

Rep. Kirk Stensrud (R-Eden Prairie) sponsors HF2084 that would apply in situations where municipalities either limit the number of waste haulers who can serve their residents or start collecting the waste themselves. Companies forced to surrender their customers could seek compensation for their lost business, under the proposal.

“This bill will protect the small-business owner and entrepreneur who provides waste services to our communities throughout the state,” Stensrud said.

The House Government Operations and Elections Committee approved the bill Feb. 28 and referred it to the House Civil Law Committee. Sen. Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen) sponsors the companion, SF1664, which awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

Willie Tennis, owner of Tennis Sanitation, said the City of Maplewood took away

20 percent of his business when it decided to mandate a single trash-hauling company for the entire city. He said his customers opposed the change and were satisfied with the services he provided.

“We didn’t do anything wrong,” Tennis said, adding that he faces the prospect of laying off workers for the first time.

Opponents say the issue is complicated by the fact that local governments are required by law to ensure waste collection services are provided to their constituents.

White Bear Lake City Manager Mark Sather said municipal waste contracts benefit haulers by guaranteeing them business. He said cities need to be able to organize waste hauling services in ways that promote efficiency and maximize benefits for the customers.

Trudy Richter, representing the Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board, said the ability to sue cities for organizing waste collection would “hold taxpayers hostage” by discouraging cities from managing waste services more effectively.

“It’s a very slippery slope,” she said.

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