Trash was the trending topic at a Speak Up Newport meeting this week.
About 75 people crowded the community room at the Civic Center Wednesday night to hear comments from city council members Leslie Daigle and Tony Petros about the city‘s plan to outsource trash collection. Daigle voted in favor of the move last month and Petros against.
The meeting included a Q&A period and city manager Dave Kiff was also on hand to help answer questions. Trash bins from potential collection companies were also on display outside.
Petros went over the process that led to last month’s vote.
The three bidders being considered are CR&R, Ware and Rainbow Disposal.
The lowest bids received appear to result in savings or cost avoidance of about $17 million over a seven-year contract term, according to the city.
Staff will gather more information about the three bidders for the automated service proposals and will come back to council with more information and a recommendation for a contract with one of the bidders. Staff has already met with all three, Kiff said.
Petros said he voted against the item because residents he spoke with “were not impressed with the material that had been provided regarding the level of service” and since they felt that way he didn’t believe it was in the best interest of his constituents to make that call.
“I do believe this is the proper time, if we are going to outsource this service, this is the time,” he said, because they have reduced staff while the worker’s compensation and overtime costs are rising and “all of the elements that are burdening our system right now.”
This is the time to do it, he continued, but with “new and revised” information about the level of service.
Daigle said she understands both sides of the issue.
“I understand the position of those who want the status quo, and say they are willing to pay a very high price to keep it,” Daigle said. “And while they’ve been spirited and well organized, I’ve also heard from people who forcefully take the other side of the issue. And I’ve listened to farsighted people who see a fiscal train wreck for our city in the future and believe we should act forcefully now in many areas to head it off.”
She also understand the opposition from the city trash workers, she continued, and “the community support for them speaks highly of how well they do their job.”
Both council members mentioned that all other Orange County cities have already outsourced their trash collection.
“It makes overwhelming financial sense,” Daigle said.
“The long-term strength and health of our city depends on how well we can reduce our pension costs, our worker’s compensation claims and our health insurance costs,” she said.
“If we do this more efficiently and just as effectively, we will have funds to redirect to more critical and important public services,” she added.
It’s of key importance that the quality of service stay the same or improve, both Daigle and Petros emphasized.
Residents asked about recycling, level of service, quality of equipment and more.
Bins come in a variety of sizes and will still be collected from narrow streets.
The RFP includes the provision that residents can continue to roll out both trash and recyclables in one bin and they will be separated, as many residents are currently doing, Petros said. It will also allow residents to have dual bins, if they wish, and multiple pick-ups will be done.
“It’s really at the discretion of the resident,” Petros said.
The city pays for the carts and residents can choose the size they want and how many they want, Daigle clarified. Residents can choose to recycle or not to, it’s up to them, she added.
Herb and Cheryl Fischer of Corona del Mar are looking forward to recycling.
“It’s important for our environment,” Cheryl Fischer said.
“It seems to be a win-win,” Herb Fischer said. “Given that there is an option to recycle or not.”
The Fischer’s neighbor, Jane Hilgendorf, is hoping for better street sweeping service.
Overall, the group of neighbors are happy with the city’s decision to move forward with the process. The meeting was informative and helpful, they agreed.
“I’m actually very pleased,” Cheryl Fischer said. “We’re really proud of the city for going through this difficult process.”
“We’ve already picked out what size we want,” she added.