Plans to build a private, $30-million trash recycling plant next to California 78 in San Marcos were hastily announced Friday by Lusardi Construction Co. in San Marcos and the Pittsburgh-based Chambers Development Co.
The plant and a 1,500-acre landfill planned for the Los Coyotes Indian reservation east of Warner Springs would have the capacity to handle all of the North County’s annual 1.2-million tons of garbage.
The private effort is in direct competition with the county’s current efforts to locate new landfill sites, build several trash-transfer stations in North County urban areas, and construct a $300-million trash-burning plant in San Marcos.
The proposal received tentative approval in August from the San Marcos City Council but was not made public until Friday.
Ken Lounsbery, who will head the Lusardi subsidiary involved in the San Marcos plant, said the project is a joint venture with the city of San Marcos and could be built and operating by 1992.
“San Marcos is the only city in North County to have something to gain from this facility,” Lounsbery said.
“The quid pro quo is that the city would then be able to close the San Marcos landfill,” which now is reaching capacity and will be expanded if it remains as the only trash dump operating in North County.
San Marcos Mayor Lee Thibadeau admitted that the city had kept the private project under wraps, passing a vaguely worded ordinance approving an industrial development on 29 acres of city-owned land along Rancheros Drive east of Twin Oaks Valley Road.
“We didn’t want this to get out until we had the details worked out,” Thibadeau said. “We still don’t have all the answers. It is still premature and we can back out if necessary.”
He said that the city had gone in as equal partners with Lusardi in the trash-processing plant “because of the lack of action and direction from the county” in its efforts to build a trash-to-energy facility that would relieve the crisis created by increasing amounts of trash.
County officials have been negotiating with private firms since 1982 to build and operate a trash-burning facility that could handle about half of North County’s refuse, but lawsuits by plant opponents and difficulties in negotiations with private firms have stalled the project, which would reduce the need for additional landfill space.
“It is the city’s intent to cover ourselves,” Thibadeau said. “The county has been dragging its feet in solving the trash situation. There’s no guarantee that we will see the county board (of supervisors) solve this problem in the next 10 years. We want a solution now.”
Under the Lusardi-Chambers proposal, called Palomar 2000, Lusardi would build an 89,000-square-foot trash recycling and transfer center at Rancheros and Mata Way, on the north side of California 78. The refuse remaining after recycling would be trucked to the Los Coyotes landfill for burial.
Lounsbery said that Lusardi and Chambers have a contract under which Chambers would build the outlying landfill and operate both the facilities. Initial plans call for the plant to handle about 600,000 tons of trash annually, he said, but an expansion plan to handle the entire North County trash flow are included.
Richard Chase, consultant and spokesman for the Chambers firm, said word of the San Marcos venture surfaced when he was speaking to a group of Warner Springs residents about the proposed landfill and was asked where the trash was coming from.
“So I told them about the San Marcos program and the word spread,” Chase said. Chase and Lounsbery met Friday with Bill Worrell, deputy director of the county Public Works Department, which is formulating competing plans for trash transfer stations and new landfill sites for North County.
Worrell said after the meeting that the county must be in control of any trash recycling and disposal operation “because we know what has happened in Eastern cities when private companies handled the job and then pulled out in a year or two.”
“The cities ended up sending their trash out of state as the only way to dispose of it, and that can be a very expensive proposition,” he said.
Worrell also questioned whether the Los Coyotes Reservation site is suitable for a landfill because of its distance from North County. Several proposed county landfill sites were dropped from consideration because of their distance from the coastal cities, he said.
Lounsbery said the private venture would require county participation, but “I imagine that it would be in the field of rate-setting.” Private ownership of the recycling center in San Marcos and the inland landfill is key to the project, he said.
Mayor Thibadeau agreed that the county should play a role in the private project.
“In fact, the county has to agree with it or I’m not buying it either,” he said.