Heights looks for new trash service
By Daniel Hernandez
La Habra Journal
Stuck at a negotiation impasse, La Habra Heights officials resolved in the September council meeting to open a bid for the city’s waste-hauling services. The aim is to garner better services for lower prices for the community.
The city council passed a resolution to stop negotiations with Haul-Away-Rubbish Service Co., Inc. after decades of trash service to over half the residents in the Heights. This opens the door for other waste collection services to stake claim on the territory.
“It will make the process more competitive … and certain companies maybe will offer additional services that aren’t currently being offered,” said Assistant City Manager Gabriella Yap, who was instrumental in the negotiations.
Haul-Away resisted offers from the city that staff deemed fair, and the city was “willing to try and meet” at a middle range, a report on the negotiations concludes. The report states that Haul-Away and the city fell short on a contract in part because of green waste requirements, administrative cost recovery and rate structure.
The city has an obligation to divert waste whenever possible, the report says. It continues: “We felt that if residents needed additional carts for green waste, which is very likely due to the large lots in the city, the rates Haul-Away wanted to set could be a disincentive to do so.”
Haul-Away believes they already provide adequate green trash service for a fair price to the community but at a high cost to the trash company, said Morrie Beliakoff, president and one of the representatives of the company who spoke at the council meeting.
“I don’t know how much more free things we could do,” Beliakoff said.
Also, costs to the city piled up during the talks with Haul-Away. The city hired a consultant to prepare an agreement with the trash company, incurring administration fees, which also include city attorney fees and staff time.
In negotiations, the city asked Haul-Away to cover these costs, which most city council members at the meeting agreed is not unusual. Haul-Away refused to pay the costs even after price adjustments.
During public comments on this matter, some members of the community expressed concern about the city gouging Haul-Away, but City Manager Shauna Clark fired back at these concerns.
“The last number put on the table by the city was $25,000,” which is not nearly enough to cover the costs, Clark explained, countering a community speaker’s claim that the city sought the full $80,000 in administration fees.
However, at this same meeting, the city council passed an ordinance amending the municipal code regarding solid waste, also termed the “Integrated Waste Management ordinance.”
The ordinance, which is an amendment to the municipal code chapter 4.3, requires all residents and commercial businesses to maintain mandatory waste pickup. Currently, the city allows for community members to self-haul their trash with proper permits. However, 150 to 200 estimated residents do not subscribe to waste-hauling services, and the city staff is unaware of any issued permits.
The city believes it can obtain the best rate for trash services if all residents were required to subscribe to the city’s waste-hauling agreement, according to the agenda report titled “Ordinance Mandating Collection of Solid Waste and Recyclables.”
City council members expressed concern about bidding for other services and forcing Haul-Away to compete in an open market because of what Councilmember Michael Higgins describes as pleasurable experiences with the company.
“I have no complaints about them. I would’ve preferred them to continue on in this community,” said Higgins. “I’m distressed a little bit that these negotiations have been going on for approximately two years and we haven’t been able to come together with an agreement.”
According to city documents, the process leading to the commencement of a service provider will conclude on May 1, 2014. At this time, the best bidder for the waste collection services will be chosen.