Commentary: No-bid contracts are insulting to ratepayers


The Costa Mesa Sanitary District has not executed a competitive trash contract bid since World War II. The elected Sanitary District’s board oversees about 13 employees and one trash contract.

The board meets Thursday, and one item on the agenda will be the “General Manager Annual Performance.” For almost two years, the board will not formally evaluate the trash contract.

No bids, and in the face of this heightened dialogue about the topic of no-bid contracts, no rigorous evaluation of the existing contract. As a former elected board member, I find this inaction arrogant and insulting to the ratepayer.


So, as ratepayers, who do we hold accountable for this lack of reasonable and customary oversight responsibility? Well, if the board votes to give the general manager a raise, although arguably deserving, then I suggest the board is accepting 100% of the responsibility in allowing this unbridled lack of routine oversight to occur. Imagine the outrage if the City Council ever did anything close to this.

The best outcome is to have the board vote to give the trash contract the six-year termination notice. That’s right, not for a minimum of six years will the best score card be available to rate payers where market forces determine price, service and value in a competitive bid.

In other items, interesting that the board will reinstate the Recycling Committee. When I spoke out against the trash contract, the board voted to remove me as chairman, silencing a voice challenging the trash contract, dissolving that committee into another. Less than a month after I am gone, the board wants to bring that committee back. You decide if the shenanigan was punitive.

The April board meeting date is requested to change. Let’s hope this action is not to accommodate another board boondoggle conference at the rate payer’s expense.

The board plans to set a public hearing for a “Wastewater Rate Adjustment.” I recommend you support this five-year rate increase. Year one has a big percentage, but amounts to less than a dollar a month, and is necessary to systematically invest in an aging infrastructure of a mid-century city.

JIM FITZPATRICK is a former Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board member who recently resigned his seat. He was appointed recently to the city Planning Commission.