SAGINAW — The Saginaw News reports the city of Saginaw began outsourcing its garbage pickup to a private firm on July 1. The contract was signed in order to reduce a city fund deficit of $480,000 and to avoid raising fees and further curtailing waste services. The Saginaw City Council ended city pickup of yard waste and recycling in 2003, but is expected to start again in January thanks to the new contract.

The city council voted 5-3 in favor of privatizing the city’s trash pickup, awarding the contract to Mid-Michigan Waste Authority. Waste Management Inc., which is employed by the Mid-Michigan Waste Authority, will be responsible for garbage, recycling and limited brush pickup. The company will also buy five of Saginaw’s six garbage trucks for a total of $460,000, eliminating the current fund deficit.

Opponents of the contracting had proposed raising the city’s $50 trash collection fee to $66 in order to preserve the jobs of 11 city trash employees. City Councilman Andy Coulouris told the Saginaw News he was concerned about costs to citizens noting, “What do you say to a citizen who asks why they should pay more to keep [trash collection] in-house instead of outsourcing?” Other jobs have already been offered to the city’s trash employees.

Union groups announced their intention to take the matter to court. They contend that a letter written in 2001 promised the city’s continued use of union labor in exchange for a reduction in labor costs. Others question the letter’s validity, arguing that it refers to a contract that expired in 2003.