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Manure Hauler Gets a Neigh : Business: A small company is fighting Norco’s franchised waste hauler over rights to horse dung.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Manure: Its stench is as much a trademark to Norco as horses, Old West facades and cowboy hats.

Most residents are used to the smell as just part of life in this rural but developing town, where--by some estimates--the horses outnumber the humans. It is the butt of jokes and a source of complaints about cleaning it up each day.

Now, it is a lucrative commodity, at least for a mom-and-pop company that is going head to head with the city’s franchised waste hauler over rights to scoop up the city’s horse manure, a dispute that could end in a showdown at a City Council meeting or in the courts.

Western Waste Industries says it has an exclusive contract with the city to pick up refuse, animal excrement and all. But Charles Cyr says the contract is ambiguous, and for three years he has been picking up manure from as many as 200 customers.

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“Norco has a lot of horse manure, and it doesn’t need to go to the dump,” said Cyr, 59, owner of Quick & Easy Pick Up in La Sierra. “It’s kind of a philosophical question. I’m not hauling waste manure. It’s manure, but it’s not waste. This is just more refuse that doesn’t need to go to the landfill.”

Quick & Easy employees pick up the manure, keep it for about a week in a nearby field and then sell it off to landscapers, farmers and gardeners. Cyr declined to say how much he gets for the organic material.

The dispute flared up two months ago, when Cyr applied for a business license after operating in the city for three years. City officials denied it earlier this month and gave Cyr until Aug. 31 to remove his bins or face a citation.

“It’s ending up sillier than it actually is,” said Norco City Atty. John Harper. “The city has the exclusive contract with Western Waste along with new mandates from the state. Him taking manure really impacts that. It’s really significant.”

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Much of the dispute lies in the contract, which grants Western Waste “the exclusive commercial right and privilege to collect, remove and dispose of all refuse originated in the city.”

Cyr points to a contract provision that says that no one should be prohibited “from furnishing, hiring or contracting for removal and hauling of trash, rubbish or refuse from any lot, place or construction site so long as roll-off boxes or bodies are not employed.”

Cyr said he uses dumpsters, not roll-off boxes, and should be allowed his business. Harper said it doesn’t matter as long as Quick & Easy does a regular service that should be provided by Western Waste.

“I understand the city’s position,” Cyr said. “The city has to listen to its attorney. Western Waste will say, ‘Get Cyr out of there or we’ll sue you.’ ”

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But city officials also fear that if allowed, haulers such as Cyr could undermine their fledgling recycling program. On July 1, Norco launched a pilot program of 1,000 homes to pick up bottles, cans and newspapers for recycling.

Western Waste acknowledges that it can only dispose of its manure at local landfills because the current recycling program is not set up to handle organic material.

Eventually, however, the program will be expanded to all residents and include compost materials in order to meet a state law that requires each city to reduce its waste going to the landfills by 25% in 1995.

“It’s important for the city of Norco to account for the manure that is diverted from the landfill,” said Robert Woodings, Norco’s public works director.

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Such a commodity has the potential for a rich supply in Norco. City officials say that about 32% of the waste coming from its population of 25,000 is manure.

Cyr charges $17.50 for pickup every other month and $40 a month for weekly service. In an offer that was launched last month, Western Waste customers who separate manure from the rest of their trash get a special rate of $43.81 per month for manure service and an additional $10.77 a month for regular trash pickup.

Although the rates aren’t too different, Cyr says that he can do what Western Waste can’t: customize his service so residents have the option of getting it picked up as many times as they want--everything from twice a week to once every two months.

Western Waste officials are none too pleased by Cyr’s business. Along with city officials, they say that Cyr is operating without a franchise and without paying franchise fees. Further, they add that he has a business that operates without the watchful eye of health and safety inspectors.

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“There’s a lot of reasons why the city dealt with us,” said Richard Haft, the general counsel for Western Waste. “It’s become a very sophisticated business now, with the demands placed on the city and the needs of the public.

“There’s a lot of reasons why small haulers aren’t allowed in the city. He has no proof of insurance, no truck inspection.”

But from Cyr’s point of view, he’s not a waste hauler, he’s a manure hauler.

“At what point does material become waste?” Cyr said. “When there’s not a use for it anymore. I maintain there still is a use for it.”

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