Carson OKs Controversial Pact With Trash-Hauling Company

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Carson City Council has approved a controversial contract with trash hauler Western Waste Industries that includes a residential recycling program and new rates for some industrial and commercial businesses.

The recycling program, which will be offered free to Carson residents starting Nov. 4, is part of a contract approved in June that gave Western Waste the exclusive right to collect the city's trash. Also starting Nov. 4, residential trash will be collected once a week instead of the current twice a week.

Some business leaders were upset about the new commercial rates, which they said were subsidizing the recycling program.

On Tuesday, the council set rates only for businesses with single trash bins. A decision affecting firms with multiple bins was postponed until next month after a lobbyist for Watson Land Co., among the city's most influential developers, said most of its tenants would pay dramatically higher rates under the schedule proposed by Western Waste.

The lobbyist, Pilar Perry, said Western Waste's proposal would result in yet another windfall for the trash hauler. Critics of the company's contract with the city say its franchise amounts to a $5-million-a-year monopoly for Western Waste.

Carson's industrial and commercial businesses are now served by about 30 haulers, and Western Waste handles all residential trash pickups. Under the new contract, the 30 haulers would be phased out of the city as their individual contracts expire.

The consolidation of the city's commercial and residential trash contracts is aimed at complying with a new state law requiring that the city reduce by 25% the amount of trash it sends to landfills by 1995 and by 20% by the year 2000.

Under the rate structure set by the city Tuesday night, commercial-industrial rates for firms with single bins will vary depending on the size of the company's trash bin and number of pickups per week. For example, a company with a once-a-week pickup of a standard three-cubic-yard bin will now pay $77 a month. Because this is the first time the city set rates for commercial-industrial businesses, officials said it was unclear what proportion of companies would have higher or lower bills.

Perry said Watson tenants with multiple trash bins--including those currently served by Western Waste--would face increases of 50% to 200% if the council had adopted the new rates proposed by the hauler.

In a related action Tuesday, the council also gave initial approval to a 2% business license fee for the city's 30 trash haulers, which may continue to operate in Carson for up to five years. The new business license tax, which would amount to 2% of annual revenues, is expected to add $100,000 a year to city coffers, officials said.

But Councilwoman Sylvia Muise, the only council member to vote against the agreement, said the financially strapped city could have levied a 6% franchise fee on Western Waste that would have generated an estimated $300,000 in annual revenue. Although the company said in a letter last May that it would not oppose such a tax, it was not included in the final contract.

"You gotta wonder why," Muise said in an interview Wednesday.

The city adopted a $29.1-million budget for 1991-92, $500,000 less than last year's spending plan.

Councilwoman Vera Robles DeWitt, who abstained from voting on the Western Waste issues, said the city lost a valuable revenue source by not adopting a franchise fee.

Western Waste was "willing to pay a 6% franchise fee, but it's never come back up before the council," DeWitt told the council. "This business license tax--in essence, you're penalizing all the other contractors we're kicking out of the city."

Councilwomen Kay Calas and Juanita McDonald and Mayor Michael Mitoma, who supported Western Waste's proposals, say the company is going to incur substantial start-up costs for the recycling program.

Mitoma said he opposes a franchise fee because "it would be passed on to the customer." He said it will take Western Waste several years to get a majority of the city's commercial trash hauling business.

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