As I detailed in my story today, city councils across Orange County could be doing a better job of negotiating down trash collection rate increases. That being said, the story did acknowledge the complexities of trash contracts.

However, while trash contracts may be complicated, the simple fact in Laguna Hills is that every city household is paying extra for all the horse manure in the upscale equestrian community Nellie Gail Ranch.

Here’s the deal: Nellie Gail Ranch horses generate a lot of waste that can’t be taken straight to a landfill. So it has to be taken to a more expensive processing facility, according to Deputy City Manager David Reynolds. This jacks up the rates for all Laguna Hills residents.

And though some Nellie Gail Ranch residents might own bins that are more twice as large as the average bin or get two extra green waste bins (for free) to handle all the horse poop, they pay the same rates as other residents in Laguna Hills — $14.79 per month.

It’s called rate blending, and the waste hauler, CR&R Waste and Recycling Services, as well as city officials, say it’s necessary to keep the billing process simple.

Pierre Gilbert, a Laguna Hills resident and City Council candidate, said Nellie Gail Ranch residents should be paying their fair share.

“We need to assess the people properly for what they’re consuming,” Gilbert said. “If you’re using more of the service, you should be paying more of the cost.”

Gilbert said he isn’t interested in pitting Nellie Gail Ranch residents against other residents in Laguna Hills, but he disagrees with the city’s “one-size-fits-all” mentality.

The problem, said CR&R Vice President Dean Ruffridge, is it’s difficult to make sweeping generalizations about the amount of trash generated by lots in Nellie Gail Ranch. That could open up a haggling dilemma for the contractor, as some residents could argue they don’t put out as much waste for collection as their neighbors.

“Where you draw the line … is really hard to do based on lot size,” Ruffridge said.


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