Businessman calls foul on Idaho Falls waste ordinance
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IDAHO FALLS — Idaho Falls is one of few cities in the United States that prohibits private companies from providing industrial-sized dumpsters for rent. As a result, one local businessman says he has to turn away dozens of potential customers a week due to the fact he cannot conduct business within city limits.
Curtis Johnson owns Dump It, a local dumpster rental company.
The company is based in Idaho Falls, but the majority of Johnson’s business is outside the city since a local ordinance allows only the city to rent out industrial-sized “roll-off” dumpsters usually found around construction sights.
The city of Idaho Falls controls residential garbage and small dumpster services, which Johnson said is common. His issue is with the large roll-off dumpsters his company offers for rent.
“I turn down business every day. Four, five, six, seven phone calls depending on the day,” Johnson told EastIdahoNews.com. “They’ll ask for our dumpsters, and we’ll have to tell them that we can’t go inside the city limits.”
When Johnson started his business, he shrugged off the prohibition on doing business within the city, believing it must be a common practice. That is, until he received a bid request from Walmart.
The bid request included a list of every city in the United States with a Walmart within its limits. The request asked companies if they did business in or around any of the listed cities, and to send Walmart a bid if they did. The request specified which cities allowed private companies and those that did not.
Out of the 2,529 cities included in the request, only 89 prohibited private companies from renting industrial roll-off dumpsters.
“Idaho Falls just always tells me, ‘Oh, this is normal, people do this all the time.’ Then I started to think it’s really not a normal thing,” Johnson said.
Normal or not, Idaho Falls City Councilman Jim Freeman said he doubts a private company could provide the same service cheaper and last long term.
“I believe the sanitation services the city of Idaho Falls provides are a good value, and as we are operating not for profit, we have very low rates,” Freeman said.
Public Works Director Chris Frederickson said the city only charges what it costs to pay employees and maintain the service.
Johnson maintains he doesn’t believe the city is saving its citizens any money by not allowing private companies like his to do business.
“It doesn’t save the citizens any money, and they’re not getting a better service. It would make sense if you were saving your citizens money,” Johnson said.
Dump It offers 15 and 30-yard roll-off dumpsters and charges a $25 to $50 delivery fee.
In addition, Johnson said it costs around $150 per dump for his 15-yard dumpsters and around $200 per dump for his 30-yard dumpsters, but the exact prices vary depending on county dumping fees, which are included in his dumping price.
The city charges a $35.70 monthly rental fee for a 30-yard bin. It charges a $141.75 fee per solid waste dump or a $164.85 fee to dump construction waste. The higher cost for construction waste includes the Bonneville County fee to dump at Hatch Pit.
In 2017, Idaho Falls spent $4.9 million on sanitation services, including garbage removal and roll-off dumpster handling. The sanitation budget consisted of around 2.4 percent of the city’s $195 million 2017 budget.
Sanitation fees brought in $3.8 million in revenue to the city — about a $1.1 million loss.
“I think if you look at most communities, it’s generally something that the city either offers or they don’t. They don’t compete, generally, with private industry for these types of services,” Frederickson said.
Johnson disagreed, saying if he was allowed to do business in the city, he could provide a better service and possibly better prices.
“We offer flexible delivery times (and) more sizes of products for the customer to choose from,” Johnson said. “If a big project comes up, we can aggressively bid on it, where the city just has one fixed rate for all projects. If we had access to the city of Idaho Falls, our rates could be even better because we would have more business in a more dense area.”