Embroiled in a dispute over the municipal garbage contract, the city's waste hauler has requested an independent arbitration hearing.
In recent weeks, city officials have questioned whether Dewey's Rubbish Service Inc. is overestimating the amount of garbage hauled from Mission Viejo households, resulting in higher trash rates.
The Irvine-based firm has denied the city's allegations, and in a letter to City Manager Fred Sorsabal last week, called for the arbitration hearing.
"We are disappointed that the matter cannot be informally discussed and resolved," wrote David Ross, general manager of the firm, "but Dewey's hereby formally requests that this 'dispute' be submitted to an impartial hearing officer for resolution. . . ."
Ross could not be reached for comment.
But city officials say Dewey's call for arbitration is premature.
"It's important for the City Council and the residents of the city to discuss the issue first," said Mayor Robert A. Curtis. "This is just crisis management on their part."
Attorneys hired by the city are reviewing the arbitration request, Curtis said.
Dewey's Rubbish Service may have overestimated the amount of garbage picked up from Mission Viejo households, Curtis said, resulting in residents being overcharged.
"The more tonnage (of garbage) that is hauled, the more (landfill entry) fees (are charged Dewey's) and (the) higher the rate to residents," he said.
Curtis said the firm is trying to settle the dispute in arbitration to avoid a direct challenge to the city contract, which runs for another four years.
"They're trying to piecemeal the issue rather than address whether the contract has been violated or not," he said.
The city has prepared for a possible legal battle over the contract, hiring special legal counsel to review the franchise agreement.