In a 3-2 vote on June 10, the Atascadero City Council decided to renew the city’s contested waste collections contract after an attempted coup from the current contract hauler’s competitors.
In April, the council opened a can of worms by discussing the possibility of reconsidering waste collection contracts. In hopes of deposing the current contract holder, two other waste companies, San Luis Garbage Co., and Mid State Solid Waste and Recycling—the latter of which has the contracts for green waste collections and disposal, and to receive the city’s recycling after it’s collected—asked for an opportunity to bid.
Atascadero Waste Alternatives Inc. (AWA), owned by Waste Management—the largest company of its kind in the United States—has held the contract since the company bought out the long-time local hauler Wil-Mar in 1996. After nearly two decades of routine renewals, the city looked to adjust and streamline the contracts with AWA and other parties.
In April, AWA was criticized for having the highest commercial collection rates in the county. After renegotiating the contract, AWA lowered the commercial rates by 10 to 36 percent, kept the already-low residential rates consistent, and added in other services like trash collection at city parks and street sweeping.
“Our numbers are based on actual, on-the-ground, real experience servicing customers,” AWA representative Doug Corcoran said. “We’re right in the wheelhouse of the local market, and we feel it’s a terrific deal for you.”
At the June 10 meeting, owner of Mid State Solid Waste and Recycling Brad Goodrow, joined by his attorney Kelly Astor, again tried to persuade city officials that they could offer better rates, and that the council should open the contract and assess their options. During a back and forth between Goodrow and Astor and AWA’s Corcoran, the council asked questions, and the companies made a public plea for consideration.
“This tactic of waiting for a council meeting and then saying that we’ll do the same thing for less money is something we run into in the business,” Corcoran said. “It’s what [Astor] does—he’s good at it, he’s been doing it a long time.”
Astor then said Goodrow’s company wasn’t given a chance to demonstrate their qualifications during the “closed door negotiations.”
“We weren’t given a chance to roll out a proposal,” he said.
Council members Bob Kelley and Roberta Fonzi advocated that the city reopen the process, hoping to get better rates for consumers. They were trumped, though, after the council approved the renegotiated contract, drawing applause from the many AWA employees who attended the meeting.
-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay