Representatives of the Ocean View School District have long wanted a Huntington Beach waste-management facility to enclose its operations.
But when the facility's owner, Rainbow Environmental Services, said Monday that an enclosure is in the works, district officials didn't welcome the announcement.
After years of animosity related to accusations that the operation has generated odors and dust that waft into the neighborhood, including two nearby campuses, distrust still hung in the air when Rainbow General Manager Jerry Moffatt made the surprise statement during the Huntington Beach City Council meeting.
"It's a Trojan horse," said Ocean View School District board President Gina Clayton-Tarvin after the meeting, suggesting subterfuge on the part of the company.
Moffatt said the business is planning a 90,000-square-foot enclosed facility on the company's 17.6-acre trash-collection and recycling site at Warner Avenue and Nichols Lane.
"The existing operations, which many of you are aware of and have visited, will be moved inside of this new building," Moffatt said. "This building, if all goes well, will be completed by the end of 2018."
Moffatt said the $15-million facility would follow city, county, state and federal regulations for an enclosed waste operation.
Rainbow says the project is intended to address complaints that the company has received for years from residents of the Oak View neighborhood, which surrounds the trash facility, and from teachers at Oak View Elementary School across from the site.
Tyler Robert Kreymor, a student at Ocean View High School, on Gothard Street a block west of the facility, said odors from it can be smelled there as well as at Oak View Elementary.
Clayton-Tarvin said she was shocked to hear Rainbow's announcement. However, she said she cannot trust the business, which in 2009 said it would enclose the facility but didn't follow through.
Others at the meeting expressed similar skepticism.
Rainbow spokeswoman Sue Gordon said the company has been planning to build the enclosure since 2009 but ran into delays, some associated with the Great Recession, which began in 2008.
The school district filed a lawsuit against Rainbow in December 2013, alleging that the company has been negligent, has improperly maintained its operation and has been a public and private nuisance.
Edmond Connor, an attorney representing the district, said that although Rainbow said it would follow safety guidelines, it did not state whether it would use fans and air filters to keep dust and odors from escaping.
Moffatt said the company will make efforts to mitigate those issues, though he did not elaborate.
The talk about Rainbow's facility Monday stemmed from a proposal submitted days earlier by council members Erik Peterson and Billy O'Connell to have the city attorney draft an ordinance that would require all trash receptacles and waste facilities in the city to be enclosed by 2018 in an effort to reduce litter and improve air quality.
However, council members voted unanimously Monday to have city staff evaluate all local trash bins and determine whether they comply with the city's municipal code regarding refuse management. The findings are to be reported to the council during a study session no later than Aug. 3.
Connor said the council's action did not establish a deadline for Rainbow's enclosed facility to be built, adding that it "does nothing to require them to proceed" with the project.
"The only thing that's going to require them to proceed is our lawsuit," Connor said.