Newport Beach prides itself on providing a high quality of life, but the City Council defied the pleas of numerous residents by voting Tuesday to approve a contract to outsource one of its few remaining in-house public works services: trash pickup.
In a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Rush Hill and council members Nancy Gardner and Ed Selich voting no, the council agreed to have CR&R; Waste Services to take over as the city's residential trash hauler, effective next spring.
The majority of the council maintained that residents would see the same level of service after the switch to an automated hauling process with an outside company.
The city has been touting a savings of at least $15.8 million over seven years by outsourcing to CR&R; versus keeping trash hauling in-house.
Residents will still be able to leave their trash for pickup in their own disposable bags or boxes, but they will also be provided carts, available in three sizes, according to the contract. Distribution of the new carts will begin before CR&R;'s start date and old carts will be picked up.
"Basic bulky items" such as mattresses, chairs and water heaters will be collected as well under the contract, though the hauler may request that customers call beforehand.
In all, the city expects CR&R; will cost the city $19.8 million for the desired services over seven years, whereas Rainbow Environmental Services and Ware Disposal — the other two companies considered — would have cost $27.3 million and $26.8 million, respectively, according to the staff report.
Debate during the meeting focused more intently than in previous meetings on whether the city recycles enough.
The city already exceeds state-mandated waste diversion standards, staff said. But Rainbow promised a significant increase in the diversion beyond current levels, reaching 75% of waste diverted by 2020. CR&R; offered to implement an organics program to reach 65% diversion as an option, for an added cost of $925,000 per year, which staff rejected.
"We don't need it," said Mark Harmon, the city's director of general services, noting that recycling levels would already increase some under the new contract. "To pay that money now, and every year moving forward in this agreement, staff feels that that quite honestly would be wasteful."
Gardner noted that many other reasons exist for improving the amount of waste that is recycled.
"It makes me uncomfortable when the only reason we're recycling is to meet a mandate," Gardner said.
Rainbow also pitched itself as dedicated to meeting the specific needs of Newport. A number of people offered sentimental testimony in support of Rainbow, including parents advocating better environmental protection, a veteran speaking to the good treatment he has received from the employee-owned company and Assemblyman Travis Allen pitching the company's quality of service.
Several council members expressed disdain for what they characterized as Rainbow's over-the-top eleventh-hour pitch.
"I half expected to see my 90-year-old father wheeled through the door to make the case here," Mayor Keith Curry said. "I haven't seen this many upright citizens since the cable TV franchise wars in the 1980s."
Also that night, the council voted unanimously to approve a contract with Great Scott Tree Service for tree maintenance in the city. The contract had not been rebid since West Coast Arborists took over the service in 1993, staff said.
The 10-year contract will not exceed $1.3 million per year but is subject to an increase based on the annual consumer price index, which measures the prices paid by consumers for goods and services.
West Coast Arborist President Patrick Mahoney challenged the methodology used for choosing Great Scott.
Curry countered that a company should not be allowed to change its bid after seeing the bid from another company.
"This is a bid job based on responding to the RFP [request for proposal] when it goes out," he said. "Based on what was submitted, we have, on the basis of both cost and service, a selected and recommended firm, and that's going to be the principal that I hope that we use not only on trees, but also on trash and on all of the other services that we procure."
Such is the principal of the competitive process, Curry said. Companies should always make their best efforts first.