The City of Claremont came to two major agreements last week in its efforts to sign a new contract for waste disposal and to reduce the cost of trash collection in the city.
“We have a contract [with a landfill in] Orange County which is expiring soon,” said Claremont Mayor Linda Elderkin. “We have discovered a [new] contract with San Bernardino County for 20 years, which will be less expensive than what we’re paying now.”
The Orange County contract expires in December.
The issue of trash disposal has become a hot topic in Southern California politics since Los Angeles County began running out of space in its landfills. The current plan for L.A. County is to convert to a rail system whereby trash will be sent to a disposal site in the desert.
“We’ve seen the graphs. It’s not a small increase in what we’d be paying, it’s a very large increase,” Elderkin said. “We tried to avoid getting the city into that situation.”
The city also came to an agreement with its trash collection employees that will have workers pay for eight percent of their city-funded retirement plan, which is part of the massive pension program CalPERS.
“In the city and state system, our employees have never paid any contribution to their retirement plan,” Elderkin said. The new system will lower the city’s costs.
The agreement arose from a conflict that emerged in late August when it was reported that the City Council had approved Requests-for-Proposal (RFP) from major trash-collecting companies, which led some Claremont residents and sanitation employees to worry that these jobs were being contracted out.
According to Elderkin, the council never discussed such plans.
“All that was authorized was a cost-benefit analysis [of the waste collection system],” she said. “The method [through which] the staff chose to do this was by issuing RFPs.”
In exchange for the eight percent retirement contribution agreement, as well as a new two-tier system that will award lesser benefits to future employees of the sanitation department, “the council has agreed to table any discussion of cost-benefit analysis or contracting services for five years,” Elderkin said. The figures from the RFPs were not made public.
With regard to trash disposal, the city’s current contract is with the Olinda Alpha Landfill in Brea, Orange Country, and costs the city a tipping fee of $28.06 per ton of trash. The new agreement, which will be made directly with San Bernardino County, will send Claremont’s trash to the Mid-Valley Landfill in Rialto and cost the city a tipping fee of $26.75/ton.
When asked if the Rialto landfill is located in a largely lower-income community, an accusation made of many landfills in Southern California, Claremont Assistant City Manager Tony Ramos said this was not the intention.
“If I lived in Rialto I’d tell you it’s a great community,” he said. “We all love our communities.”
Ramos also pointed to the economic benefits of landfills, which bring money and jobs to a community.
Elderkin expressed gratitude that the RFP issue and uncertainty over waste disposal had been resolved, at least for the time being.
“None of this will be final until there is a vote in the council at the next meeting,” she said. “I’m hoping that it’s a good resolution for everyone.”