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Santa Clarita Urged to Hire New Trash Hauler

The city manager recommends a company that would improve recycling and charge less. A council vote is set for this week.

September 30, 2003|Richard Fausset | Times Staff Writer

Santa Clarita's city manager Monday recommended that the city dump its current garbage haulers in favor of a new firm that he believes will help the city achieve its recycling goals.

Fontana-based Burrtec Waste Industries Inc., a newcomer to the city, offered "the best overall long-term value" among proposals the City Council plans to consider at a special meeting Thursday, City Manager Ken Pulskamp said.

But he noted that all three companies competing for the franchise were offering to lower residential rates for Santa Clarita homeowners, who currently pay some of the highest trash bills in Los Angeles County.

Last year's decision to put the city's trash franchise out to bid was rooted in frustrations over costs, but also over the city's troubled recycling program.

Like many California cities, Santa Clarita in recent years has failed to live up to a 1989 state law requiring cities to divert 50% of their waste from local landfills. Monday's recommendation was based in part on the fact that the current haulers -- Blue Barrel Disposal and Consolidated Disposal Services -- have been unable to help the city meet state goals. In 2001, the last year for which data is available, the city diverted 39% of its waste.

Pulskamp noted that residents will benefit from the competitive bidding process no matter which company the council chooses. Homeowners currently pay $22.13 per month for trash service. Burrtec is offering to charge $16.46 per household for the first two years of the seven-year contract, which would begin in 2006. Consolidated would charge $18.29, and Blue Barrel would charge $16.25 for that same time period.

While Burrtec's rates would not be the lowest among the competitors, city staffers were impressed by the company's overall program, including its promise to build a sorting plant for recyclable trash. City officials believe the plant would increase recycling rates.

Additionally, under the terms of the contract, the city could take over ownership of the plant at the end of the contract period, and only have to pay the remaining debt service.

Blue Barrel, which is owned by the trash giant Waste Management Inc., also offered to build a recyclables sorting plant, but did not make a firm promise to eventually turn it over to the city, said Jill Fosselman, assistant to the city manager.

Burrtec is going "above and beyond what the city asked for" in other ways as well, a staff report states.

Burrtec's litter pickup program, in which work squads pick up litter strewn around the community, would take place monthly, instead of quarterly as the city proposed, and the company is promising to use new alternative-fuel trucks, distribute "how-to" recycling videos and give extra money to community nonprofits.

City officials were also impressed with the company's plan for commercial trash, which, according to the report, would increase recycling among businesses by as much as 36%.

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