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December 12, 2017
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Changes coming to RP’s waste removal services

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
November 17, 2017

Recology Sonoma Marin — a refuse service committed to zero waste in California, will likely take over local trash, recycle and street sweeping services after the Rohnert Park City Council gave direction Tuesday night to work towards passing the agenda item that would award Recology the franchise/contract agreement, a move that was originally suggested by the company itself as it plans to eventually purchase and take over RPD. Despite the potential agreement change from Rohnert Park Disposal Inc. to Recology, service rates may also increase 20 percent due to the RPD contract, which requires rates to be reviewed every three years, which upon review, found “justified” conditions for a rate increase.

All city council members backed the rate increase and other changes as well as the contract change since the service change to Recology aligns with the city’s “strategic plan” in providing the city with good trash removal services. According to the agenda report, the contract change would also, “improve the level of service.” They all agreed to move forward with this item.

Vice Mayor Pam Stafford said of the proposed changes, “When we have Don working for us… he is looking out for Rohnert Park in every aspect, so I feel really comfortable with what we have here.” 

However, Council member Amy Ahanotu was concerned about the proposed drastic rate increase saying the approximate 20 percent increase, may be somewhat of a shock for people.

RPD, which has been taking care of Rohnert Park’s trash and recycle service since 2001, is owned by the Ratto Group, a company which is now in negotiations with Recology over an asset agreement. In other words, the Ratto Group’s RPD will most likely become a part of Recology, including all of its equipment, trucks and the current contract agreements, which include this call for the annual rate adjustment and review.

The agenda item was prepared by RP Assistant City Manager, Don Schwartz, explaining the need for the rate increase, and saying in the report, “The current contract allows for an annual rate adjustment based on the percentage change in the annual average of the refuse rate index numbers including labor, fuel, vehicle maintenance, processing and disposal fees.”

Part of this annual rate adjustment is also based upon a detailed rate review that helps determine if the rate change is indeed required. 

The city conducted the rate review and found that the, “...Rate increase is justified based on the actual costs of operations and the need to replace existing vehicles; of the 19.33 percent increase, 8 percent is due to the replacement of vehicles,” and furthermore, “current rates have been outpaced by increasing operating costs.”

During the meeting no public concerns or opposition towards the rate increase and contract amendments were heard.

Despite Council member Ahanotu concerns of the increase, if the rates are passed in an upcoming city council meeting, they will still remain as some of the lowest rates in Sonoma and Marin counties.

RP’s current trash disposal rate for the minimum size 20-gallon cart is $8.71 and would go up to $10.45, according to city statistics. Santa Rosa’s trash removal rates for the same 20-gallon cart is a whopping $23.56, with Cloverdale following close behind with rates starting at $15.72. The county’s average trash removal rate is $13.36, which is still pricier than the proposed RP trash rate increase.

While some may not want to see a change in garbage rates Schwartz emphasized these numbers, saying that RP will still be  able to have considerably low rates.

He said of the probable rate increase, “It’s certainly something we are not thrilled about, but it is a contractual obligation. But the good news is we are still well below the county average in most cases.”

Yet rate increases aren’t the only proposed changes to the franchise contract agreement. There would also be possible changes to certain services such as battery collecting and recycling, street sweeping, service at city events and facilities and public education funding.

Instead of RPD’s usual practice of collecting batteries, if the possible contract changes are passed, then residents would need to drop off their batteries at various locations around town. Furthermore, “The proposed changes would eliminate the storage and delivery and storage of batteries at the corporation yard. RPD would collect the batteries and transport them for recycling to an appropriate hazardous waste facility,” the agenda item report stated. 

In terms of sweet sweeping, the proposed changes would make street sweeping in certain areas of RP more frequent as extra street debris is common during the autumn months.

Megan Butler, corporate development manager for Recology, said the company is looking forward to starting work in Rohnert Park and in overseeing “resource recovery,” a mantra the company likes to stick to instead of being known for waste management.

“Our vision statement is Recology sees a world without waste and what we believe that to mean is that instead of functioning as a traditional waste management company, we view ourselves as a resource recovery company… so instead of things going back to the landfill, it is put back into production,” Butler said.

Mayor Jake Mackenzie said of the trash service change from RPD to Recology is that the council stands in agreement to move forward on this change.

“I would say that we are in agreement with this reassignment of the franchise agreement, so that would be our direction,” Mackenzie said.

The contract change from RPD to Recology Sonoma Marin and the rate adjustments will be taken to the Nov. 28 city council meeting where it will be formally voted on.