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Sanitation District Cuts 16 Positions

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Plummeting revenues, including losses from the Toland Landfill, are forcing the region’s sanitation district to eliminate 16 jobs today.

Ten people received pink slips at the Ventura Regional Sanitation District, which provides trash disposal services to all of Ventura County except Moorpark and Simi Valley.

“It’s very hard to lay people off,” said General Manager Bill Smith. “Just like a business, if there’s no income, there’s no jobs.”

Combined with the elimination of the equivalent of six vacant positions, the layoffs mean the agency has cut 15.5% of its 98-employee work force.

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The cutbacks are expected to help offset the district’s loss of revenue from its operation of Toland Landfill, the end of waste water treatment contracts with the cities of Santa Paula and Fillmore and the return of $1.5 million in property tax money to its member agencies.

The cutbacks have resulted in a budget for fiscal 1998-1999, which begins today, that is down 24% from the previous year, Smith said.

The estimated 20 to 30 Santa Clara Valley residents who take advantage of Saturday hours at Toland Landfill, midway between Santa Paula and Fillmore, will also be affected by the cuts. Effective Saturday, the landfill will begin operating only five days a week.

In an effort to cut truck traffic, only local residents were permitted to haul directly to the dump.

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Saturday operations brought in only about $26,000 annually, so eliminating those operations is expected to save the district about $300,000 a year.

Chairman Jon Sharkey said some board members were reluctant to eliminate Saturday service because the district had made a commitment to local residents during the contentious process of expanding Toland from a local to a regional dump.

“That’s a sensitive issue,” he conceded. “People demand that government be cost-effective. You always hear ‘run it like a business’ and if you run it like a business you can’t do some of the nice things you could do for folks.”

Although 40% of the decrease in the district’s budget can be traced to completing the closure of Oxnard’s Bailard Landfill, the district lost revenue with a decline in business for Toland and the loss of the two waste-water treatment contracts, Smith said.

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Oxnard and Port Hueneme have been forced to send about 700 tons of trash a day to the Simi Valley Landfill because the district was unable to guarantee that Toland could handle that amount of waste before hitting its daily limit of 1,500 tons. Overall, the landfill is falling 300 tons short of its daily operating limit, which costs the district about $1.5 million annually, Smith said.

Losing the contracts to operate waste-water facilities for Fillmore and Santa Paula will also cost the district $1.5 million a year, Smith said. Private companies underbid the sanitation district to provide that service to those communities.

“We failed to anticipate the willingness of the private sector to accept operating losses for immediate market share,” Smith wrote last week in a report to the board immediately before it adopted the budget.

Job losses include four positions in the district’s solid waste department, nine in its Water and Wastewater Department and the remainder in administration.

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“It’s a balanced budget,” Smith said. “It’s very cost-effective and it’s created a signal for all of us in the district to be more productive due to the competitive nature of California today.”


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