The city of Oxnard has more than a load on its hands. What had originally been a deal between the city and privately operated Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority has now become the city’s sole responsibility after a narrow vote.
After months of delay and lobbying, the city of Oxnard voted 3-2 to take over operations of the Del Norte Regional Recycling and Transfer Station run by Republic Services Inc., and voted unanimously to send upward of 48 percent of the city’s trash to the publicly owned Toland Road Landfill just outside of Santa Paula.
The city of Oxnard along with seven other charter cities within Ventura County, including Ventura and Camarillo, have already made an agreement to use the Toland Road Landfill. Oxnard was the only city that entered into the agreement not to use the landfill to its full potential, choosing rather to send most of its refuse to the Simi Valley Landfill, which means the city paid to use the landfill but chose not to.
The city of Oxnard spent close to $30 million to build its solid waste facility, but paid Republic Services Inc. to operate it. City Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez said that she believes the takeover will be good for the city and the facility’s 40 employees.
“Some statistics show that we’ve been overpaying for their services,” said Ramirez. “A lot of the employees are contract employees, which means that they’re not even hired by Republic. The city owns the trash trucks, hires the drivers, owns the facility and is responsible for the upgrades in the equipment that are going to come.”
The city will now be responsible for the much-needed renovations at the Del Norte site, but could save upwards of $932,000 the first year, offsetting the cost of upgrades valued at $1.2 million. Since its construction, the site has been maintained by Republic but the machinery needed to separate and dispose of the solid waste hasn’t kept up with industry standards.
“The current contractor only had to do regular maintenance, but we were always going to have to buy new equipment and do the upgrades,” said Ramirez. “So let’s take control of it and do it better.”
One of the two council members who voted against the takeover, Bryan MacDonald said he thought the plan hadn’t been vetted thoroughly.
“I think we’re moving too quickly. I’m not opposed to taking it over and I’m not opposed to running it ourselves, but I think we’re getting it done too quickly,” he said.
MacDonald said he believes that the cost to the city will be greater than what was discussed and that the cost of the upgrades could have been avoided altogether. The original bond used to build the Del Norte site will be paid off in 2015, but according to MacDonald, another may be needed to pay for future renovations.
“I’d like to see us being able to run this without having a bond for it and risk raising taxpayer rates,” said MacDonald. “Some people will say that regardless of whether the city runs it or not, we’d have to pay for the upgrades. I don’t believe that’s correct. If we were to give it to a private contractor, they could advertise it over the life of the contract without having a bond.”
Now that the Council has voted, the expected takeover date of Feb. 1 will come to pass, just in time to catch up to the rest of Ventura County’s waste disposal desires.
Ventura City Councilman and former Mayor Jim Monahan knows the waste business, as a member of the Ventura Regional Sanitation District (VRSD) committee and from his oversight of the completion of the Biosolids Drying and Renewable Power Generation Facility addition to the Toland Landfill in Santa Paula.
Oxnard’s decision comes at the right time for Monahan, who said he believes the move will save taxpayers money.
“All of the citizens of the eight cities of the VRSD will not have to get a rate increase because Oxnard is bringing in a percentage of their trash now that they hadn’t brought in before,” he said.
The city of Oxnard had also split 50/50 the net revenue of the profits of the recyclables with Republic at $1.8 million last year. The city is now looking to contract with a firm that would only keep 15 percent of the profits.
With Oxnard diverting most of its waste to the Simi Valley Landfill, the Toland Road Landfill had been operating at less than peak capacity.
“It will help us extend the life of the landfill,” said Monahan. “We won’t have to go out and find another landfill for another 20 years.”
As for MacDonald, looking forward, he hopes to improve the system before implementation.
“If we’re truly going to be efficient at this, we need to make sure our collection system is efficient,” said MacDonald. “I’m not sure we’re there yet.”