Athens Services could become Santa Ana’s next citywide waste hauler and collect residents’ and local business’ trash for up to 18 years, making at least $676 million in the process over the initial decade.
That’s what Santa Ana city staff are recommending to City Council members, who are slated to vote on selecting the company at their meeting today — out of four companies in the running — and award Athens an exclusive solid waste agreement.
The city’s current contracted trash hauler is Waste Management, which — along with fellow trash collection companies CR&R and Republic Services — also threw its hat into the ring for the next contract, widely considered to be Santa Ana’s largest from a resources and fiscal standpoint.
Services under the new contract would begin July of 2022.
Of all four companies, Athens proposed charging residents the least amount of money for trash collection during the initial run of its agreement with the city, at $17.55 per month for curbside services for the first year of service.
It’s also a company whose employees aren’t unionized.
Support for union labor has been a popular stance on the Santa Ana council dais.
The pro-union sentiment has manifested policies like one approved in 2017 requiring all city construction and public works projects use unionized laborers for work.
“Any changes” to the city’s exclusive agreement with Athens “would be made at the direction of the council,” said city spokesperson Paul Eakins when asked about union labor.
“Yes, Athens is open to negotiating with the local union. If Athens is awarded, current Santa Ana employees will have the option to remain represented if they choose,” said Athens spokesperson Cristian Herrera in a Monday written statement.
If selected, Athens will also extend employment “to the incumbents’ (Waste Management’s) affected personnel,” he said, adding those employees will receive “equal or better compensation with fully paid benefits for them and their families.”
“Additionally, we will provide a $10,000 bonus guarantee to every (employee) who transitions to Athens. We are 100% committed to maintaining labor piece and our pro-employee culture,” Herrera said.
The current curbside trash services rate for residents is $22.57 per month.
“Athens Services proposed the lowest price throughout the term of the contract for the 42,000 residential customers with curbside service, with immediate savings of $4.81 per month,” reads a city staff report attached to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
No matter who city officials select, however, trash rates will go up annually anyway over the following five years, increasing 2.5% each year per the stipulated contract and special rate adjustments for “Clean City Initiatives.”
The initiative is meant to ensure tidier streets and comprehensive cleaning of the city’s right-of-ways, specifically targeting busy thoroughfares, as well as industrial and business districts.
Athens also proposed the lowest charges for additional trash cans, senior and mobile home services, and commercial cart service, among other services, and would “had the highest customer satisfaction rating among all four haulers,” according to the staff report.
“Overall, city residents and businesses will pay the least to Athens for services similar to those proposed by the other firms,” the report reads.
Though there are some shortcomings if the council follow’s staff’s recommendation, according to staff’s own report:
Athens offers ten free bulky item pickups per quarter, per dwelling unit for apartments and condominiums — a total of 40 items per year per dwelling unit.
Other companies in the running have proposed unlimited bulky item pick up, staff say.
Athens also proposed “the second highest pricing for multi-family residential service of
$597.21 and the second-lowest pricing for commercial service of $449.88 (both include
refuse, recycling and organics).”
The agreement, if approved, would commit Athens to servicing the city for ten years starting July 1, 2022 through July 30, 2032, with a mutual option to extend the contract for five years, and an ability by the city — if officials desire — to extend it for three more years.
Total annual fees paid to the city, under the contract, would amount to $13.6 million.