Garbage collection war grips Mitchell, S.D.There seems to be a local garbage war heating up here and one private sector hauler claims he is cleaning up his competition. His competitors, however, say not so fast.
By: By SETH TUPPER, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
MITCHELL, S.D. — There seems to be a local garbage war heating up here and one private sector hauler claims he is cleaning up his competition.
His competitors, however, say not so fast.
Competition in Mitchell’s garbage-collection industry isn’t new, but Larry Petrik, owner of Petrik Sanitation, said recently that he’s adding two to three new residential customers per week in town. And those customers are coming from the city’s municipal service and another private company, Miedema Sanitation.
Meanwhile, Petrik’s competitors say they’ve yet to see any evidence that they’re losing customers.
Ron Olson, the city’s street, sanitation and landfill superintendent, said the city maintains a database of all city residences and their garbage-collection pro-viders. The database helps enforce a city ordinance that says all residences will be charged for city garbage-collection services, unless proof of service from a private hauler is shown.
According to Olson, that database shows that only 26 city garbage customers have switched to Petrik Sanitation since 2003, and seven of them later switched back to the city. That’s a net loss of 19 city customers to Petrik Sanitation in the last seven years.
“I think our customers are happy with our service,” Olson said. “We sure don’t get many complaints.”
The database also shows that the city collects garbage from about 94 percent of the residences in city limits. The other 4 percent is split about evenly between Petrik and Miedema Sanitation.
John Miedema said he “hasn’t lost many” customers to Petrik Sanitation. But even if Miedema were losing residential customers, he said, it’s not something that would concern him. Miedema Sanitation does not actively pursue residential accounts in Mitchell, choosing instead to focus on commercial accounts.
Miedema said the city does an excellent job with its garbage-collection service, and it meshes nicely with other city services such as water and sewer.
“A lot of cities do provide that service, and they do quite well with it,” Miedema said. “They provide the water, sewer and garbage collection, and it just seems like a natural flow to provide those three things and have a healthy city.”
Petrik said the ease with which a customer can sign up for all three city services makes it difficult for a private garbage hauler to compete. His company, which is headquartered in Wagner, began picking up garbage in Mitchell about 10 years ago.
Three or four decades ago, there was more competition in the local garbage business. Miedema, whose parents got into the local garbage industry in 1972, said there were three or four private garbage haulers in the city during the 1960s and 1970s.
Across the state and nation, private-public competition in the garbage industry remains common in modern times, Olson said. He believes there are good reasons for cities to keep a hand in garbage collection.
Primarily, public garbage-collection services give cities some control over aesthetic- and health-related issues that go with garbage. A city with its own garbage service can more easily ensure that garbage is being collected and disposed of properly, Olson said. He added that without citywide coordination of a publicly run garbage service, there might be multiple garbage trucks from different companies driving through neighborhoods several times per week.
“It’s not that we’re trying to monopolize it,” Olson said of the city’s role in garbage collection. “It’s just to make sure that everyone is responsible for their garbage so that we don’t have people out there who aren’t taking care of their garbage correctly.”
Seth Tupper is a reporter for
The Daily Republic of
Mitchell, S.D., which is owned
by Forum Communications Co.