Crookston residents and property owners: Do you really, really want fancy and convenient receptacles with wheels that you simply roll to your curb to have your garbage and recyclable materials picked up by a cool truck equipped with a large robotic arm?

    Well, good for you. Who wouldn’t want that? Just know that it’s going to cost you more than you’re paying the City of Crookston now, in the form of a $5 monthly fee on your water bill, whether you utilize the City’s collection service or not.

    As everyone knows, if you DO use the City’s garbage collection service, you also have to buy official City bags. And if you have the City puck up your recyclables, they only empty your blue plastic containers at your curbside once a month, which isn’t frequent enough, some say.

    It’s been written on this page before, but let’s reiterate it again: Crookston is fairly unique in that it is home to the Polk County Transfer Station. If you’re willing and able to haul your garbage and recyclables to the facility on Ingersoll Avenue when it’s convenient for you, it costs you nothing.

    In case you missed it, with a couple of longtime City Public Works staff members retiring, City leaders thought this might be an opportune time to move beyond the annual discussion and complaints about garbage collection and actually put out a request for proposals for private sector  firms to respond to, if they so wish. City Administrator Shannon Stassen said he did some checking around, and there is interest in providing the service to Crookston customers.

    The resulting proposals could be especially interesting. While it’s basically a guarantee that the proposed costs for private garbage and recycling collection will be higher than what Crookston residents are paying now for City collection – the $5 monthly fee would be erased from your water bills if a private firm takes over the service – one would think that vendors responding to the RFP will want to be especially competitive, because they know people can simply haul their garbage to the transfer station for free.

    The timing of this RFP is perfect. No one would have to lose their jobs, since the two employees that would be impacted are retiring anyway.

    But, also, if people are willing to pay a bit more, they should be given an opportunity to access a service that’s more convenient for them and more technologically advanced than having to buy City bags at the store, fill them up and haul them to the curb.

    Yes, a City isn’t profit-motivated as a private sector business is, but so few Crookston property owners participate in the City-run program now, a crew can finish a route is less than half a day.

    There’s some understandable angst about what will become of the City-run spring and fall clean-up weeks. But let’s get this RFP out there first and see what the cost proposals are. If they’re outrageous, the City might reject them all and the process will end right there. But if the numbers are feasible, maybe we’re in for a big change, and some kind of clean-up week program will live on, too.