ANN ARBOR-In addition to possibly having to lay off city workers, the city of Ann Arbor, in order to achieve budget savings, is considering privatizing its trash pick up service. 

If the city follows through on this idea, it would join Traverse City, Emmett County, Hamtramck, and other Michigan cities that have privately run trash pick up. 

In Auburn Hills, for example, where homeowners hire their own solid-waste contractors to pick up garbage, city leaders are considering a plan to give the job to a single contractor in an effort to reduce truck traffic and noise in its neighborhoods. Most south Oakland County communities contract with a single hauler, although neighboring Rochester Hills allows residents to choose their own garbage collectors as well. 

Meanwhile, Pontiac's annual $1 million-plus sanitation deficit has the city council debating which of a raft of proposals - including privatization - to put before resident voters in November. 

Pontiac Mayor Willie W. Payne recently proposed a plan whereby residents would rent new 105-gallon garbage bins for $1.50 per week, to be emptied by new trucks with robotic arms. Although this plan was given the thumbs-up in a Detroit News editorial, the city council balked, and the plan was taken out of the city's proposed budget in late June. The mayor says he expects it to reappear on November's ballot. 

Also on the ballot will be whatever solutions Pontiac's City Council decides upon, which could include higher taxes, fees, some other kind of rental arrangement, or privatization. Council member John Bueno told the Detroit Free Press that turning over city-run trash collection to a private hauler is an option that should be explored. Such a plan would eliminate the 3-mill property tax for garbage collection.

But Mayor Payne opposes privatization, which he says would likely result in higher refuse collection costs. This goes against the experience of other Michigan cities such as Pleasant Ridge, which privatized refuse collection in 1996, and cut costs by 22 percent.