OTTUMWA — Down two council members, the Ottumwa City Council elected to address the city's next noncommercial trash and recycling contract at their Oct. 20 meeting.
Neither Holly Berg nor Marc Roe were at Tuesday's regularly scheduled meeting, and councilman Bob Meyers asked to delay the discussion of the contract between Sparta Waste Services and Bridge City Sanitation so the full council could comment and perhaps make a decision.
Still, discussion about the contract continued, as city administrator Phil Rath gave an administrative report to the council, and councilman Matt Dalbey addressed his concerns about the contract.
"I think the council had a lot of pressure on it last time on local versus out-of-town business. But this goes beyond that in my option," said Dalbey, the only member of the five to approve a contract for Sparta during last week's special meeting at Bridge View Center. "That's why I voted the way I did. I don't believe the local business should be given the contract if the service isn't quite there."
Bridge City Sanitation is the current holder of the contract. The new $19 million contract would kick in July 4 of next year, with Sparta, an Urbandale-based company, saving residents about $150,000 over the life of the contract.
However, there have been complaints about Bridge City in the past. Meyers addressed that, but said it came with the territory.
"No matter who we select, there are going to be complaints," he said.
Dalbey highlighted the vast importance of the decision, believing it would best for all council members to be present to make it.
"We operate as a complete council," he said. "This is a massive undertaking that we're locked into, and it's very serious. None of us are anti-local business, and if the decision was based just on that, I would have switched my vote.
"But my position is that after 10 years, the opportunity to change or improve has been given," he said. "It's easy to give into political pressure, but we have to make the best decisions for the people we serve. I think both options should still be on the table, but it falls on us to make a decision. I will accept the outcome of the vote in two weeks."
Rath said in his report that there hadn't been formal documentation of city discussions with Bridge City's service, only informal discussions. But councilman Skip Stevens echoed his wish to see an annual evaluation for whichever business gets the contract.
"I'd still like to have it, but I could live without it I guess," he said.
Mayor Tom Lazio said city staff should still speak with each business and for there be a recommendation in front of the full council.
In other business:
• The council approved a resolution setting Oct. 29 as the date for a ribbon-cutting and scoop-the-loop event to celebrate the completion of the Ottumwa Streetscape Project, which took two years and cost $6 million to complete. The event will allow members of the community to return to a fully accessible and improved downtown. The resolution also waived a requirement that businesses in the streetscape area obtain a permit for sidewalk sales or sidewalk dining for one day only, but that businesses would still have to allow for 5 feet of open space on the sidewalk for pedestrians. The waiver does not apply to any restrictions on alcohol sales and service.