Before an overflow crowd of more than 350 people, the City Council voted 5 to 2 Monday to award a controversial trash-hauling contract worth an estimated $100 million to the city’s longtime hauler, Great Western Reclamation.
Although the city this winter put the trash contract out to bid for the first time in 30 years, Great Western ultimately offered the city the best terms, according to a city staff report.
“We put this contract out to bid and my hat’s off to the process,” Councilman Miguel A. Pulido Jr. said. Great Western “is giving us the best rates that we’ve seen.”
The council majority rejected the pleas of several people, including City Councilman Richard L. Norton, to postpone the decision in order to gather more information and seek better terms for the city. Norton and City Councilman Thomas E. Lutz cast the dissenting votes.
The decision on the city trash contract had been anticipated since last November, when it became an issue in the City Council election. Responding to an uproar from the city’s commercial trash customers, who pay the highest rates in the county, several council members promised during the race to open the contract to bidding.
After the election, the council made good on the promises and voted unanimously to put the contract out to competitive bidders--with a catch. The council added a stipulation that the entire city must be served by a single hauler, a move that hurt smaller firms.
On Monday night, representatives of several small companies told the council that the exclusive contract might bankrupt them.
“By voting yes on this contract you are voting yes to monopolies,” said Dolores Otting, a representative of Santa Ana-based 5 Star Rubbish.
“It’s obvious that the politics of Santa Ana have been purchased,” she added, referring to campaign contributions made by Great Western to current and former council members.
To help placate the critics, the council directed the city staff to meet with the Chamber of Commerce, small trash haulers and representatives of Great Western to develop a plan that will protect small businesses.
When the contract begins on July 1, commercial rates will drop temporarily by 30%, and apartment bin rates will fall 22%. Residential rates will immediately drop $1.01 from the current $9.71 per month. However, the residential rate will climb after six months to $9.70, and increase again after an additional six months to $10.80 as the city phases in state-mandated recycling.
The rates were the lowest of those contained in proposals submitted by Great Western, Browning-Ferris Industries, Western Waste Industries and Ware Disposal.
City spokeswoman Teri Cable said companies were evaluated on their ability to perform services, their track records and their willingness to assume the financial responsibility of meeting the state’s tough recycling law. That law requires cities to reduce their trash output by 25% by 1995 and 50% by the year 2000.
Penalties for violating that law run as high as $10,000 per day.
Commercial customers will save a total of $2.72 million during the 1993-94 fiscal year under the new contract. Apartment owners will save a total of $955,300 during the same period, according to the report to the council. The new contract includes residential recycling to be phased in over 18 months.