SANTA ANA — A judge on Thursday chided the City of Santa Ana and its franchise trash hauler for trying to quash free enterprise and denied them a preliminary injunction to stop a smaller competitor from picking up garbage at city schools.
Siding with the family-run 5-Star Rubbish Co. and the Santa Ana Unified School District, Superior Court Judge Thomas N. Thrasher scolded officials of Great Western Reclamation, a subsidiary of the behemoth Waste Management Inc., for coming to court after losing the schools job to Dolores Otting's Newport Beach-based company in January.
Otting's five-year bid was $700,000 lower than Great Western's, a savings the judge said Santa Ana taxpayers are entitled to receive.
The decision came as a relief to Otting and school district officials, who feared they could lose control of their budgets if the city were allowed to dictate who should haul their garbage.
"My big concern is, we really don't want to have other people contracting for us without our knowledge," said Bill Moncure, the district's director of purchasing. "We feel that we're in a position to save money."
"We're very happy," Otting said of Thrasher's decision. "We're just a small business trying to make Santa Ana a better place to live."
Santa Ana officials last year granted an exclusive contract to Great Western Reclamation that included "educational facilities," and drafted an ordinance prohibiting any other trash hauler from working within city boundaries.
Attorneys for the city and Great Western say 5-Star is violating the city ordinance and complicating city efforts to comply with state recycling law.
City officials vowed to appeal Thrasher's decision.
"The fact of the matter is, the only reason there are any cost savings to the school district is because 5-Star doesn't have to comply with the Integrated Waste Management Act," Santa Ana City Atty. Edward Cooper said.
That state law requires cities to reduce their trash 50% by 2000, in part by recycling an increasing portion of it. Cooper and attorneys for Great Western have argued that the city needs to control all the trash within its boundaries in order to comply with the state law.
But Moncure said the school district's contract with 5-Star requires them to meet city and state recycling requirements.