TULSA, Oklahoma - The City of Tulsa might have to temporarily handle trash service for the entire city unless a legal battle over a new trash contract is resolved quickly.

The Tulsa Authority for Recovery of Energy [TARE] Board is already researching the option of declaring an emergency so it can spend a $5 million reserve fund to handle trash service on a temporary basis.

TARE Board chair Cheryl Cohenour said the emergency would have to be declared soon because a new contractor might not be able to take over the service by July 1, 2012.

The Tulsa City Council was briefed by the TARE board on the status of the trash service contract, which is going to end this summer.

"They might have to subcontract it out, we have no idea what the charge the city would hzve to charge us until they could take that over until the emergency was done," said Steve Berlin, TARE Board Member.

Bids have been received for a new contract, but TARE cannot award the bid until legal issues are settled.

TARE expects to have $5 million in reserve July 1, but is concerned that litigation costs, or a possible delay in the contract, could force them to spend the money for a temporary trash system.

TARE board member Steve Berlin said the existing rate would not be enough to pay for collection under a temporary system for any length of time.

"We might not be able to implement a new system by July 1," said Cheryl Cohenour.

A judge's restraining order preventing the board from awarding the contract. Current trash hauler TRI sought the restraining order. 

"The only thing we know for sure is that we probably need to declare an emergency if this legal situation doesn't go away rather quickly," said Cheryl Cohenour.

Cohenour said one option would be to have Tulsa city employees pick up the remainder of the trash service for the city, using rented vehicles, until a new contractor could mobilize it's own forces.

The Tulsa City Council is researching the basis for the rates to be charged.

Under the current system, the TARE board told the council trash rates are subsidized by $500,000 per month, creating artificially low rates that will be eliminated when the new contract takes effect. The subsidy comes from a reserve fund built up from historic overcharges.

The rates paid by homeowners also pay for several items besides residential collection - such as green waste disposal, dead animal pickup and hazardous waste collection.

The trash board is holding on to a $5 million dollar reserve fund which might be used to hire a temp service to pickup trash.

They won't know the timeline until after this court hearing - when they can talk with a bidder about what's the least amount of time they'll need to get started.