Four trash-hauling companies have submitted proposals to run the city's garbage collection service, marking the first time in 30 years that the current hauler has faced competition for the lucrative contract.
Teri Cable, city administrative services manager, said companies vying for the $20-million yearly contract include current operator Great Western Reclamation as well as Browning Ferris Industries, Western Waste and Ware Disposal.
The city's staff is evaluating the proposals but has not yet determined customer cost, Cable said. Staff recommendations are expected to go before the City Council in mid-April. Great Western's contract expires June 30.
Last year, the council rejected a staff recommendation to award the new contract to Great Western and voted to accept proposals from other companies to determine whether the job could be done better or less expensively.
The decision followed months of criticism from residents and other trash-hauling firms that Great Western's fees are unnecessarily high, in part because of the lack of competition. Residents now pay $11.86 per month, one of the highest rates in the county.
Cable said the city's process for analyzing the proposals ensures fair competition, although some residents and trash haulers are skeptical.
Neighborhood activist Kathi Jo Brunning, who has called for greater competition, said she hopes the selection process will produce the best deal for customers, but added: "It depends on how the city handles the bids. If they treat them fairly and get the best deal for the residents and not the best deal for the politicians, then we will have accomplished what we set out to do."
Tony Otting, owner of Santa Ana-based 5-Star Rubbish, criticized the process, saying the city doesn't have to accept the lowest bidder.
"They should put it out to bid and open up competition, but that's not what they did," he said. "The proposal is not fair at all to anybody. It hurts the people in Santa Ana."