Firm Hints of Pullout From O.C. Landfill

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A trash-hauling firm in Anaheim that triggered a garbage crisis for Orange County last year when it took its business out of the county's landfills is threatening to pull out once again.

The development came in a letter received Monday by Board of Supervisors Chairman Roger R. Stanton from Vincent Taormina, the chief executive officer of Anaheim Disposal Inc. And the news did not sit well with some officials.

"I'd just as soon not get this kind of communication," Stanton said of the letter, which was sent to each of the five supervisors. "We'll make up our minds (on landfill issues) regardless of what is good for a given hauler or not."

Stanton said he considered the letter "a subtle hint" that Taormina is again considering pulling his business out of the county, adding that "as far as I'm concerned we don't need that."

In the letter, Taormina urged the county to freeze its "gate fees" at county landfills--"now and in the future"--to avoid higher costs from being passed along to residents for trash collection service.

If the county moves ahead with rate increases as has been proposed, "we must continue to explore alternative disposal options," Taormina warned.

Last August, those options for Anaheim Disposal meant abruptly pulling its daily 2,500 tons of garbage out of the county landfill in Brea and taking the business to a private dump in West Covina.

The move shocked county officials and threatened to cost them $12 million a year in lost gate fees. The shortfall was so serious that officials considered raising garbage collection fees significantly, closing a landfill, or soliciting business from Los Angeles trash haulers to remedy the problem.

But the crisis--as some termed it--came to a quick end just a week after it started, as Anaheim Disposal officials agreed to return their business and begin talks with the county over long-term waste-management problems.

Those talks have gone well, Taormina said in an interview, but he is still worried that the county may raise its gate fees, despite its "commitment" to hold rates constant at least through summer.

The county's Waste Management Commission several weeks ago offered two proposals for raising gate fees nearly 20% in the next two years--either a $2 increase per ton this year and next, or no raise this year and $4 next, Taormina and county officials said. The current rate is $22.75 per ton.

"I don't believe the county has answered the cities adequately to determine if the rate increase is justified," Taormina said. The five cities that Anaheim Disposal represents--Anaheim, Brea, Garden Grove, Placentia and Yorba Linda--"don't feel (an increase) is really necessary," he added.

County officials say they have been forced to consider landfill rate hikes because state-mandated recycling has cut down on landfill volume and hurt revenues.

But Stanton said he would not support a rate hike, given the bad economic times.

"I don't think it's a publicly responsible thing to do, but that's totally irrespective of this letter," he said. "This is not the time or the environment to be raising rates."

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