The messy business of the Oxnard trash takeover
It would seem that any opportunity for a business or an entity to save money or, better, to make money, a savvy business person would take. And so it goes for the Oxnard City Council in its recent decision, 3-2, with Mayor Tim Flynn and City Councilmembers Carmen Ramirez and Bert Perello in support of the takeover of solid waste services.
Currently, Oxnard is contracted with Republic Services to handle the operations of solid waste management and recycling. The city pays Republic $5.5 million annually and splits 50/50 the net revenue of the recycling profits, with Republic’s contract expiring Feb. 1. Most people, in general, don’t know what a good deal is between a city and a private solid waste management firm, but one thing is certain: If the trash isn’t picked up on time or rates go up, there will be an uproar. So far, the waters have been fairly calm among residents — though the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Lindholm, among other business leaders, has expressed much concern about the decision.
The conversation about the takeover began in July. Since then, there have been a few questionable actions, including the decision not to send out a request for proposals for other companies to take over the operations, a process that wouldn’t cost the city anything. At least city officials could have a broader perspective from other companies’ points of view. Also, there is no clear analysis of the employee costs (which would be union member public employees versus privately contracted employees), and a city report that shows a savings of $932,000 for the first year (details outlined in our news story “Trash Talkin’,” on page 8) fails to go into much detail about how these savings would come to fruition.
Further, a few apparent and unavoidable glitches are that, well, the city has never run trash management services before; there doesn’t appear to be another municipality takeover by which the city of Oxnard is patterning itself after (i.e., no other examples to follow); and the savings and earnings of such an endeavor are a bit fuzzy. Still, the City Council is moving swiftly to have the city take over operations by Feb. 1. In the best-case scenario, the City Council and the city made a prudent move to take over operations and the city will save as well as make money, proving to be an example of how a municipality conducts such a takeover. In the worst-case scenario, the decision was made in haste, the transition time was too short, and it turns into a messy debacle — literally and figuratively — with few, if any, options in which to resort.
Time is the only thing to rely on at this point and we hope the city of Oxnard will be able to handle the transition with ease. But we aren’t necessarily holding our breath.