Waste Management contract approved

Trash talks between Laguna Beach and Waste Management of Orange County resulted in a contract that guarantees better and less expensive disposal of trash and waste.

The City Council approved at the July 16 meeting a $43 million contract geared toward increased recycling while reducing costs for the city and holding down rates for private customers.

"Value to the city and residents in direct savings and new programs is $8.6 million," said consultant Richard Tagore-Irwin, who assisted city staff in negotiating the new contract.

Negotiations have been underway for more than a year. The past several months have been spent hammering out the details of the agreement and general terms of which the council approved in January.

"The attorneys have looked at every word — every I and every T, making sure the final form of the contract would address all the issues we brought to the council," said Public Works Director Steve May.

Tagore-Irwin presented at the council meeting a summary of the 98-page contract, describing key terms and what they mean to the city, residents and businesses.

Despite expanded services, residential and commercial rates will be frozen for the next two years. After that, increases will be limited to increases in the Consumer Price Index, no more than 5% a year, and actual county disposal cost increases.

Commercial cart rates will be reduced by 15%, which benefits 225 business customers.

Folks can refer problems to a recycling coordinator, whose salary will be paid by Waste Management.

South Laguna resident John Keith complained at the meeting about "stinky carts" in his neighborhood.

"We need help," he said.

Under the terms of the new contract, unsavory carts will be replaced once, but they can be cleaned for a small fee. Broken carts will be replaced.

The city will continue to bill single family residences for services. Waste Management will bill commercial and multi-family residences.

Of primary interest to the city, which must meet state-mandated diversion standards, and environmentalists, the contract guarantees that 50% of the annual tonnage collected by Waste Management will be diverted from the landfills by 2014 and 75% by 2020.

"We are moving away from disposal to diversion," Tagore-Irwin said.

If Waste Management does not make a good faith effort to meet the diversion goals, the company will be required to implement an additional diversion program or face harsh penalties.

"The city can deny rate increases if the company doesn't meet goals," Tacore-Irwin said.

Multiple failures to meet the goals could be the basis to nullify the contract.

Other key Waste Management obligations:

* Waste Management will pick up the tab for public education, contract assistance and the $40,000-a-year hazardous waste program costs and expansion of the program to small businesses.

* Sustainability programs will include recycling services at city events; textile, clothing and office paper, electronic and toxic waste recycling, including an annual collection of paint and documents for destruction.

"Some cities don't care about recycling," said Waste Management spokesman Davy Clark.

"That's not true in Laguna," Clark said. "We have to make it work."

Other contract conditions:

* Truck noise not to exceed 75 decibels

* Four composting workshops a year

* A $300,000 performance bond

* Implementation of a food waste diversion program at the request of the city, the cost to be negotiated

The nine-year, 11-month contract began Thursday.

"They have their work cut out for them," Tagore-Irwin said.

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