Commentary: Column on trash district belongs in it

Re. "Wu: Endorsements have started to roll in" (Column, Sept. 29): The negative Art Perry-Jim Ferryman-John Stephens campaign-bashing column by Jack Wu has incorrect statements, probably attributable to a Sanitary District director or the lack of research on both of their parts.

Because I have been researching trash contracts for about six years, I wanted to point out some untrue statements, which takes away from the rest of the opinion in the column.

I got a copy of the Newport Coast trash contract when several Costa Mesa city councilmen began to tout the savings in monthly trash service costs that the Newport Coast (NC) residents get versus the Costa Mesa Sanitary District residents. Both contracts are with CR&R.; Comparing single contract elements is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Wu compared the $10.89 monthly NC contract cost from August 2007, when the contract was signed, with the Sanitary District monthly cost of $19.95.

What Wu quoted was the monthly fee the Sanitary District residents pay, which is not the contract cost. The $10.89 NC contract cost has migrated to the present cost of $12.74 per month, due to the yearly cost adjustments, plus the city chips in a $1.17 per extra trash can, per customer, for the NC residents.

The NC residents averaged $164,000 per residence in the 2000 census. The NC residents seem to generate a lot of trash, since they average two extra trash cans. This brings the contract cost up to $15.08 per resident.

The Sanitary District staff published the effective rate for the Sanitary District after the administration costs and the contractor rebates are deducted from the $19.95 trash rate or fee at $16.50.

So after reading the contracts, and talking to CR&R;, the contract cost from NC at $15.08 is less than $16.50 for the Sanitary District. This $1.42 per month is a lot for Kobe Bryant and others to save per month on their trash service.

But of course the story doesn't end there. Newport Beach chose to let the NC residents go "Brown" versus "Green;" this is where the real cost savings are. The contract call for one of the trash bins to be for recyclables and one for all other trash.

Their recyclable bin is green, but there are two major parts of the contract that allow the contractor to reduce the trash contract cost, which also make the contract very brown.

The brown part of the contract is Newport Beach only requires that 40% of the trash to be recycled versus the Sanitary District contract requirement to meet the state law mandate of 50% recycle (reduction in trash to the landfills).

The Sanitary District's present recycle rate is actually 57%. The Sanitary District residents pay slightly more for meeting the state mandated recycle law.

The second brown part of the Newport Beach contract allows the vendor to take 60% of the trash tonnage straight to the landfill, thus avoiding the cost of processing at a materials recovery facility (MRF) to get the recyclables out of the trash.

The city of Newport Beach can do this on the backs of the commercial and industrial customers, who tend to be good recyclers. The two Brown parts of the NC contract account for the contract savings.

The Sanitary District customers surveyed said they would even pay a little more to be even greener by supporting even higher amounts of recycling. I expect the Newport Coast residents would support paying a little more per month also.

Costa Mesa Sanitary District Director Jim Fitzpatrick has flip-flopped on the multiple trash can systems and has bashed the wealthy for their ability to sway elections, which Wu did not comment on.

There is an old saying in my profession that newly graduated engineers "know just enough to be dangerous." In this case I would say the Wu-Fitzpatrick combination know or twist the data just enough to be dangerous.

But it is the silly season for politicians and attacking the poll-leading opponents with fact or fiction has to be someone's job.

ROBERT J. "BOB" OOTEN is president of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District Board.

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