After several months of changes at the city level in New Richmond, Stephens Sanitation owner Mark Stephens decided it was time to sell local waste management business Stephens Sanitation. The business was purchased by Waste Management, which is one of five garbage haulers licensed by the city.
"There are a lot of good people in town and I liked working with them and for them for all the years I ran the business. Things started last summer and through the course of the summer and fall, the situation came up to sell and it was just the right thing to do considering everything that was going on," Stephens said. "Waste Management came to us and asked to purchase the company as well as all of our equipment. They also kept on myself and two of my employees."
Stephens owned the business for over 20 years, with his father taking over the company from his uncle in 1964. The company had grown to run seven trucks.
"I have good memories of me and my brother working together. I've driven the truck since I was 13 and I'll be 63 soon," Stephens said. "Everything was going alright until I sold it. Things were good until last year when the city started making changes to the recycling. It was clear that they didn't want us there."
The first time Stephens Sanitation came up was at the June 25 New Richmond City Council meeting, when the council approved raising both the per ton and pull fees for the company. The new fees were meant to supplement the existing arrangement whereby the city pays the wages for labor and Stephens keeps a percentage of the recycling profits. The city made its decision based on the fact that the value of recycling has dropped to the point where the fees are needed to make up the difference.
The city council then approved a five-year proposal from Advanced Disposal to handle the city's recycling needs at its Oct. 22 meeting. Alderman Ron Volkert remarked at the meeting that not awarding the recycling contract to Stephens Sanitation, which had been doing business with the city for many years, was a difficult decision.
"It's been around here for as long as I can remember, especially the sanitation and I think Stephens has done the recycling ever since the city took over the recycling project. Now we have to go with someplace out of St. Paul. I just have a little bit of a problem with that. That's the thing that bothers me the most," lamented Volkert.
Stephens' bid proposal did not include the 64-gallon container as standard, did not offer a weekday pick up option and did not provide for more than a two-year agreement.
"It was obvious that the new administration at city hall didn't want us in business in the city," Stephens opined.
At the Nov. 26 city council meeting, Stephens Sanitation notified the city that it would cease to operate the recycling shed at the end of November due to the hiring of Advanced Disposal to manage the city's recycling needs.
"The transition from working for myself to working for Waste Management went okay, even though it wasn't what I really wanted. They have treated myself and my two guys well and I have no complaints," Stephens said. "They have been patient with me, which has been appreciated given that I'm 60 something years old and learning new things."