East Edition

Whittier council faces decision on trash contract

WHITTIER — At its May 10 meeting, the City Council must decide whether to void a trash-hauling agreement with Athens Disposal and look for a new hauler or put the trash-hauling contract issue on a special election ballot.

In a written report to the council April 26, City Clerk Kathryn Marshall said those against the contract have obtained sufficient signatures to force the council’s hand.

She said the protest, submitted Feb.10, contained 7,561 signatures. Of that number, 191 later asked that their names be withdrawn. Other signatures were ruled invalid by the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters Office in Norwalk.

But 5,089 names were judged valid, more than the needed 4,602 or 10 percent of the city’s 46,012 registered voters.

The petition was submitted by Mario Gras, representing Citizens Against the Garbage Tax. A city spokesperson said one of the issues was that Athens’ proposed 73 cents a month rate decrease was not enough.

Marshall said options are a special election, no earlier than Sept. 27 at a cost of about $480,000 or the state general election ballot Nov. 8 at a cost of about $300,000. Costs include placing the item on the ballot and materials to notify residents and explain the issue, she said.

Regardless of which option is selected, the city must ensure that trash collection is not interrupted, Assistant City Manager Nancy Mendez said.

To do that, the city is negotiating with Athens and Republic Disposal, one of the current haulers, to serve as interim trash collectors for one year.

She noted that if the call goes out for new bids, Athens would be prohibited from submitting a proposal for one year, under state law.

City Manager Jeff Collier said the search for a citywide trash hauler, to replace the three contractors now providing the service, began in May 2015. There were five proposals, with Arakelian Enterprises, Inc., doing business as Athens, selected in October for exclusive negotiations.

Those talks resulted in the council approving an agreement with Athens on Dec. 8 and giving final approval after conducting a public hearing Jan. 12 for an ordinance taking effect Feb. 11 and new service starting July 1.

But that was put on hold when Gras submitted his petitions Feb. 10.

The new contract was aimed at reducing trash rates to residents by allowing one contractor to serve the entire city.

The decrease on Athens proposal was from $23.28 a month to $$22.55 a month.

Previously trash hauling was  shared by Republic, Waste Management and the city public works department.

The initial four proposals were submitted in June 2015 by Athens, Burrtec/EDCO, CR&R and Republic. Waste Management did not submit a bid.