SANTA ANA — For the first time in 30 years, the City Council on Monday voted to put the city's trash contract out for competitive bidding.
But in a move that hurts smaller firms, the council voted 7 to 0 to require that the entire city be served by a single trash hauler.
Great Western Reclamation, which currently holds the contract, will be able to bid for the city's business again.
The council rejected the city staff's recommendation to renew Great Western's contract. Valued at $18 million to $20 million annually, the agreement expires on June 30, 1993.
"We owe it to the residents and businesses to affirm that the prices that we have are the very best we can possibly have," said Councilman Robert L. Richardson.
Great Western employees, many of whom live in Santa Ana, pleaded with the council to renew the existing contract to protect their jobs.
The decision followed months of criticism from residents and other trash hauling firms that Great Western's fees are unnecessarily high, in part because of the lack of competition.
Commercial customers now have the highest rates in the county, and critics have charged that while residential rates are on a par with those in other cities, basic services such as recycling are not provided.
Although Councilman Ted R. Moreno voted for the bidding plan, he favored allowing smaller firms to each serve a different area within the city. That motion failed on a 5-2 vote, with council members Moreno and Richards L. Norton in favor and council members Richardson, Lisa Mills, Thomas E. Lutz, Daniel H. Young and Miguel A. Pulido Jr. opposed.
Before the vote, several representatives from trash hauling companies urged the council to put the contract out to bid.
"I would like to compete in this city and offer an alternative at a competitive price," said Madeline Arakelian, owner and operator of South Coast Refuse Corp.
"Give the free-enterprise system a break," said Dolores Otting, who represented 5-Star Rubbish Co.
In the five-year contract renewal with Great Western that was recommended by city staff, commercial customers' rates would have dropped by 15% to 19%, an estimated savings of $1.27 million in the first year.
Residential rates would have increased from $11.86 to $12.50 per month, but fees for apartment tenants would not have increased immediately. Also, recycling would have been phased in over 18 months beginning next month.