Santa Paula Times

Recology: Council wants new trash
hauler to continue community service

January 14, 2015
Santa Paula News

The City Council received an update on the transfer of the city’s solid waste contract from Crown Disposal Company to northern-California based waste hauler Recology at the January 5 meeting but the deal wasn’t sealed. 

The transfer, coming about four years after the council agreed to privatize refuse services and sell to Crown, will go before the council for approval at its next meeting. 

Interim Public Works Director Brian Yanez told the council the city had only been able to get confirmation that a deal was in the works in November, more than a month after hearing “rumors” there would be a sale.

Initial communications with Recology, he added, were insufficient and a request for more information was received from the Northern California-based company just prior to the meeting. 

Recology representative Donald Gambelin apologized for “the confusion” and assured the council that his company, which bought Crown Disposal in November, will honor the terms of the original contract.

He noted Recology has been in business since the 1920s and its focus is recycling and landfill diversion; the company is also strong on community service.

Recology is “100 percent employee owned,” with 56 percent being women and minorities; Gambelin said no single employee owns more than 1 percent, “including upper management... “

The company also operates in Oregon, Washington and Nevada and has been expanding into Southern California including initiated the food waste program for Los Angeles.

With the Los Angeles area offering to franchise commercial refuse services, Gambelin said Crown and its Community Recycling division - that had worked with Recology in Northern California - discussed a possible partnership.

“One of us had to take the lead and Tom [Fry, owner of Crown], said ‘Why not buy me?’ Fortunately, we were able to come to terms,” and Gambelin said Recology is “very happy to be in Santa Paula... “

The company is “Very community orientated, we do a lot of community events,” that mirror Crown’s efforts and all former employees are now Recology staffers. 

There will be “no service interruption, no changes, drivers will be on the same routes,” and the trucks - white with a green and blue thread - will be reframed Recology Los Angeles. 

Mayor John Procter asked City Attorney John Cotti to address the changeover.

If Recology meets all the requirements including community support Cotti said the council can approve the changeover.

Councilman Jim Tovias wanted to know if the council could deny Recology taking over the contract; Cotti said Recology would have to fail to meet the requirements of the franchise to be denied.

Councilwoman Ginger Gherardi said Crown was a proven community partner and questioned if Recology would be equally proactive.

Yanez said, “Part of our transfer,” is ensuring that Recology will continue the same services offered gratis by Crown, including drop off events and free compost.

Gambelin said Recology has strong community references and serves 118 communities of varying sizes both with residential and commercial hauling. 

“Someone asked us why Recology does not appear to be as profitable,” as such a company would be expected to be and Gambelin said it is because, “We reinvest into the communities we serve... “

Tovias wanted assurances that Recology would park refuse trucks locally and Yanez said the company has leased property from Crown at the former wastewater treatment plant for that purpose. 

After questioning whether employees would have union representation Tovias, a council member when the controversial sale of the city’s refuse division occurred, noted, “Our big concern then was that our employees were taken care of... “  

City Manager Jaime Fontes told the council that Crown retained ownership of the former city wastewater plant property, slated now for processing food and green waste.

“For us, that would mean additional revenue,” as well as up to 60 new local jobs.

If that use becomes a reality, Fontes asked Gambelin, “Would we have your assurances you would be their best customer?”

Recology’s intent to use the planned facility said Gambelin was included in the purchase proposal.

“Before I got on the council I never realized that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” said Procter.  

“I have one trepidation,” said Gherardi who noted the city went from its own division to a “local, smaller company and now appears we’ll turn over the business to a monolithic company in several states,” and she wanted assurances “We get the attention we need,’ and deserve for Santa Paulans.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job,” if that was not the top priority said Yanez, who noted, “We are that public service person that people call,” about their service at times in lieu of Crown.

“We make sure citizens get the best service from our hauler whomever that is... “

Gambelin noted Recology services “The entire city of Santa Francisco,” as well as small Dixon - population 18,000+ - which, if asked would confirm that Recology keeps “that local presence in mind... it’s something we demand,” in providing local services.

Frank Cuevas, former supervisor of the Crown Santa Paula operation and now a Recology staffer, noted employees are looking forward to working with the new company and he is confident the community services provided by Crown will continue.