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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : TUSTIN

Trash Hauler Still Circulating Petitions

May 25, 2000|MARISSA ESPINO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The City's trash hauler of 30 years, Waste Management of Orange County, is seeking about 800 more signatures from residents in an effort to reverse a City Council decision to discharge them and hire the less experienced Federal Disposal Service.

The council voted 3 to 2 on May 1 to award a $4.2-million contract to Federal Disposal that will save residents and business owners $17.4 million during the seven-year period. But some residents wish to stay with the trash company they have come to rely on.

"The big driver for me is losing someone that is really good. I really think there could potentially be a decline of service," said Tustin Ranch resident Elizabeth Nadon. "We are working really hard. I genuinely believe we will have those signatures."

Don Shubin, president of Federal Disposal, said he feels there are no legal grounds to rescind the contract.

"The basis of this referendum is incorrect. We have a genuine contract with the city that we are fulfilling," Shubin said. "We don't see this as a public referendum. We see this as a Waste Management referendum, and that there is very little genuine support for it."

Hours before the City Council vote was taken, city staff had recommended rejecting Federal's low bid because it did not have a viable site with the necessary permits to run the trash service, and lacked experience in residential and commercial trash hauling.

The staff originally recommended the second-lowest bidder, Waste Management, but changed its recommendation just before Monday's council meeting, saying Federal promised to expand a current site in Santa Ana to accommodate the workload.

About 2,500 signatures from registered Tustin voters have to be collected by May 31. If the referendum petition is valid, the City Council would have to rescind its decision or put the issue to a vote in November.

Gaye Saroka, vice president of governmental affairs for Waste Management, said the referendum was initiated last week.

"We felt we offered a very competitive bid in Tustin, because we wanted to keep the business," Saroka said. "We truly feel, and there was a strong staff report to support it, that we were the lowest responsible bidder."

Saroka, who has knocked on about 80 doors, said several Waste Management employees and residents have circulated petitions. Community supporters will continue to visit neighborhoods and set up in front of grocery stores until the deadline, Saroka said.

City Manager William A. Huston said he felt Waste Management had turned the City Council's decision into a political one, and that the trash company is exaggerating the outrage felt by the community.

"We feel confident that the process the city used complied with the law," Huston said. "There are no facts that would indicate Federal can't perform."

Marissa Espino can be reached at (714) 966-5879.

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