Santa Ana officials are soon due for a decision on what trash collection company they want to service their city’s residents and businesses for the next decade — and possibly longer. 

Municipal waste agreements are some of the biggest and most lucrative contract decisions that elected officials make during their time in office. 

In Santa Ana, the selection of a new contractor this year could either lower residents’ trash rates by as much as nearly $5 per month, or raise it by as much as $6 a month.

The city’s current, monthly curbside trash collection rate is $22.36 per household, as part of the city’s existing contract with Waste Management, Inc., set to expire in June 2022.

The Texas-based company is seeking to extend its time with the city, joining three other businesses — CR&R, Athens Services, and Republic Services — in bidding for the city’s next contract.

Santa Ana City Council members at their Tuesday meeting voted unanimously to move forward with all four companies in the contract negotiation phase.

The negotiation period would span from March to May, with a final decision by the council expected in June and start of the new trash collection services set for July of next year, according to a timeline city staff gave Tuesday night.  

The initial term of the city’s next contract — whoever it’s with — is expected to be up to 10 years, with a possible five-year extension.

Staff had previously recommended that council members move forward with just the top three highest-ranking companies they evaluated: CR&R, Waste Management and then Athens. 

However, at Mayor Vicente Sarmiento’s suggestion, council members voted to add Republic Services, which ranked fourth and last among staff with its proposal, to the list of negotiating parties.

Sarmiento said negotiating with four companies, rather than three, would increase competition and give the city better leverage to score more favorable contract terms.

Staff haven’t given a dollar amount for how much the typically-multimillion dollar contract could run.

“This is probably the largest contract that many of us will issue during our time on the council,” Sarmiento said before the vote Tuesday. “It’s basically giving this to a vendor to provide a core municipal function.”

“Not only is it a very expensive contract but very long term,” he continued, “we’re basically going to be living with this vendor and more importantly, our residents are going to be living with this vendor.”

“This is our opportunity to create sort of a clean city effort — alleyways, bulky trash items, bus stops full of debris, areas within our city — we should have a service provider that’s going to address all of that,” he added. “This is the moment to negotiate those terms, and if we don’t, they’re gone.” 

Moving forward with Athens Services would result in a $4.81 decrease to residents’ monthly trash rates, according to an evaluation of all the companies’ proposals by HF&H Consultants, which the city hired to weigh the propositions.

Moving forward with Republic Services would result in the largest possible increase to trash rates, by $6.11 per month, according to HF&H’s evaluation. Proceeding with CR&R would mean a $1.59 increase and a $3.14 increase if the city continued with Waste Management.

At the same time, CR&R in its proposal guaranteed the city the highest CalRecycle diversion rate, meaning it committed to recycling the most sorted waste — which would otherwise end up in a landfill — of all four bidders at a 28% guaranteed diversion rate.

Waste Management came in second with a 22% guaranteed diversion rate, followed by Athens at 21% and then Republic at 20%.

New services sought by city officials in this next contract include expanded bulky item collection, weekly alley cleanups, compost giveaways, and residential food collection, among other things.

Council member Phil Bacerra, citing concerns raised by some public commenters on Tuesday, said “one thing I want to make sure is that they (the bidding companies) disclose their labor practices. I’d like to know they’re being fair to workers and treating them well.”

“Keep in mind the environment,” said Council member Jessie Lopez. “Any (contractor) should not (negatively) impact the quality of our air. It’s going to be residents who have to deal with the negative impacts and so I want that to be a high priority.”

“We have seen numerous neighborhoods on the east side of the city that are being severely impacted today, by everything from storage facilities, storage lots, landfills in neighborhoods and that needs to stop,” said Council member David Penaloza.

He added: “Anything we can do to improve the quality of life in the neighbourhoods and not continuing to hurt them would be appreciated going forward.”

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