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By Tammye McDuff and Brian Hews
A second special meeting in July was held this past Monday by the Artesia City Council for residents to discuss their concerns over the change from the 27-year contract with Consolidated Disposal Services, a subsidiary of Republic Services, to CR&R Incorporated.
The contract had come under fire from Artesia residents questioning the $3 million up-front fee the city was receiving along with the $450,000 “negotiating fee” paid by CR&R.
Also, representatives from the other six trash companies that bid for the contract were very upset at the bidding process that Mayor Miguel Canales called “unorthodox.”
The Senior Vice President of CR&R Dean Ruffridge addressed Council and residents noting that “the full benefits and components have not been fully explained to the public.”
Some of the programs for residents include a walk-out service for residents with disabilities at no charge; automatic collection of solid, recycle and green waste; bin service for multi-family residential, bulky item service up to four collections per year at no charge and a ‘sharps’ collection for needles and medical home waste.”
Beginning in 2016 an organic waste-recycling program will be implemented.
Mayor Miguel Canales added that many of his Council colleagues had made up their mind at the first meeting held July 1, 2015, but Canales wanted to hold an additional meeting to clear up any misconceptions that the City or residents may have had.
Canales added, ”unfortunately there is a lot of fear and misinformation being circulated and I hope that we, the Council have earned your trust to make a decision that is best for Artesians. Not for me, not for us, but for you – the residents.” Canales also noted that all waste haulers are a ‘for-profit’ service.
“We have hired a City Manager for the City of Artesia, that we feel will look out for the best interest of our City,” Canales continued, “even though I do not agree with every staff recommendation, I have no reason that our staff benefits from anyone else, other than the City of Artesia.” He continues to add that he looks forward to hearing the concerns of residents and addressing any distortion of misinformation, “It is our responsibility that our residents and merchants received the best we can comply with.” The contract with consolidated is close to 30 years old and outdated, which will expire in November 2015. The new contract will allegedly but a freeze on any rate increase for a period of two years.
An article published by HMG-CN was brought into question by residents, some thought it to be negative, others were glad to have received a better explanation of the new waste hauler contract.
It was requested that questions brought up by the article be answered, and the contract brought to a vote.
City staff stated that it would not change the outcome, also adding that there was no rush to come to a decision that evening, but stressed there was a bigger issue with the article and its negative connotations.
Canales addressed staff stating, “thank you for bringing up the article. Sometimes the mass media, in general, focus on sensationalizing these things, whether it is fact or it is fiction. The article did not incorporate the press release, or information that was read by City Attorney.”
The article was received by HMG-CN Thursday July 16 at 4:04 pm, well past deadline for the week, as HMG-CN is printed Thursday night.
Canales went on to say, “we are not breaking the law. We are going in with an unorthodox process, but it is a perfectly legal process.”
Questions were asked of the City Attorney regarding the length of the new contract, sole discretion of the Council to extend any length of the contract, and the rate adjustments that may be made by the City Council.
The contract is for seven years but can be extended an additional 5 years. Also CR&R can raise rates 8% every two years with another clause that accounts for “unforeseen expenses” that can add another 4%.
In addition, if revenue numbers for commercial services do not hit a certain level – a level provided by CR&R that CR&R admitted was a “best estimation” – during an audit that will occur within the first three months after the contract is signed in November, Artesia residents could get hit with a 4% increase in January 2016.
Matt Nicholas, representative for Consolidated Disposal Services conveyed to Council, “because there seems to be many questions that are unresolved here this evening and some uncertainty with the City, we are offering the City $500,000 less in franchise fees, so that the City can move forward and properly analyze any new contracts being offered.”
Amendments were made to the CR&R contract to consider hiring from the local union to preserve jobs and to keep fees as they are with no increase for second bins or bulky item pick up.
The motion to accept the bid from CR&R was made by Mayor Pro Tem Victor Manalo, seconded by Sally Flowers and was passed unanimously by City Council.
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