A No-Bid Garbage Contract
Is Not in Your Best Interest

Is a Rate Increase for Paso Robles Justifiable? Who Can Know?

What's This About?

What's  This About?
Paso Robles officials have not put the city's multi-million-dollar waste disposal contract out to bid since at least 1993. City officials say they aren't sure if it has ever been bid.

Paso Robles' waste hauler proposes a 30+ percent hike in residential and business rates over the next five years. (See "The Facts" below.)

The city’s current contract with Paso Robles Waste and Recycle, Inc. (PRW&R), extends through 2022. But PRW&R's rate hike request extends through 2027.  Here's how that's happening: The city's current contract with PRW&R calls for an automatic five-year extension to 2027 on the condition that PRW&R "shall place into operation a Green Waste and Organic Processing Facility" and secure "all necessary permits and initiates operation" by 2018.

Public Works Director Dick McKinley wrote in an email that PRW&R "met that benchmark." He told me: "PRW&R pursued a compost facility at the City’s landfill but that was not successful for a number of reasons. PRW&R was able to work with a company in the area to set up the required Green Waste and Organics Processing facility... this met the franchise requirement and thus added the five years."

Asked to see the agreement between the two companies, McKinley wrote, "I’m not certain that there is an agreement, and if so, it is a company document, not a City document."

Asked how and when the agreement was memorialized, McKinley wrote, "It was about March of 2018, but I can’t remember if we sent an email or confirmed by phone call." In a subsequent email, McKinley wrote that he accepted the agreement for the city "by a phone call" between him and PRW&R.

Those were the exchanges resulting in a five-year contract extension worth more than $30 million.

So one is left to wonder -- how can we as citizens know if the proposed rate increase is fair or not, if we don’t have bidding on the contract, thus providing information needed to make a halfway intelligent decision?

Can we trust a monopolistic agreement to always provide the best service for the best price? Are we supposed to just pay up and shut up?

In the interest of fairness and the best, most economical waste hauling service for Paso Robles ratepayers, this is one contract that begs to be put out to bid.

If not, why not?

The Facts

Waste hauler rates for Atascadero, Paso Robles, and Templeton are compared. Comparative monthly charges are for one pickup per week as of Jan. 1, 2021.

Residential pickup is by "cart." Three sizes of residential cart were averaged: 32 gallon, 65 gallon, 95 gallon.

While studying these costs, note the huge differences in commercial rates. Commercial rate payers are much fewer in number, thus their voices are even more muffled.

Atascadero (Waste Management) --$40.07
Paso Robles (Paso Robles Waste & Recycle) - $47.42
Templeton (Mid-State Solid Waste & Recycling  - $41.73

Commercial pickup by cart. Again, three sizes averaged:

Atascadero (Waste Management) - $43.70
Paso Robles (Paso Robles Waste & Recycle) - $65.38
Templeton (Mid-State Solid Waste & Recycling) - $41.01

Commercial pickup is by "bin."

Atascadero (Waste Management) - $119.29
Paso Robles (Paso Robles Waste & Recycle) - $138.57
Templeton (Mid-State Solid Waste & Recycling) - $113.15

Atascadero (Waste Management) - $136.64
Paso Robles (Paso Robles Waste & Recycle) - $163.08
Templeton (Mid-State Solid Waste & Recycle - $128.34

Atascadero (Waste Management) - $171.80
Paso Robles (Paso Robles Waste & Recycle) - $212.09
Templeton (Mid-State Waste & Recycling) - $159.15

Atascadero (Waste Management) -  $207.19
Paso Robles (Paso Robles Waste & Recycle) - $310.00
Templeton (Mid-State Waste & Recycling) - $190.16

The Facts

A Steep Hill To Climb

A Steep Hill To Climb
For ratepayers, successfully vetoing a rate hike is a major challenge. Here is what is needed, according to city officials. These requirements are craftily designed to keep you from meddling in these kinds of civic matters. The number of protests required is 50 percent-plus-one of all ratepayers in the city.

"Any record owner of a parcel upon which the Solid Waste Service Rates are proposed for imposition and any tenant directly liable for the payment of Solid Waste Service Rates (i.e., a customer of record) may submit a written protest to the proposed rate increases to the City’s solid waste service rates; provided, however, only one written protest will be counted per identified parcel. 

"Any written protest must: (1) state that the identified property owner or tenant is in opposition to the proposed increases to the solid waste service rates; (2) provide the location of the identified parcel (by street address or assessor’s parcel number (APN); and (3) include the name and signature of the property owner or tenant submitting the protest. 

"Written protests may be submitted by mail or in person to the City Clerk at 1000 Spring Street, Paso Robles, CA, 93446, or at the Public Hearing on May 19, 2020, provided they are received prior to the close of the Public Hearing, which will occur when the public testimony on the proposed increases and adjustments is concluded.

"Any protest submitted via e-mail or other electronic means will not be accepted. Please identify on the front of the envelope for any written protest, whether mailed or submitted in person to the City Clerk, Attn: Public Hearing on Solid Waste Rate Increases.

"The City Council will hear and consider all written protests and oral comments to the proposed rate increases at the Public Hearing. Oral comments at the Public Hearing will not qualify as formal protests unless accompanied by a written protest. Upon the conclusion of the Public Hearing, the City Council will consider adoption of a resolution authorizing the rate increases to the City’s solid waste service fees as described in this notice. 

"If written protests against the proposed rate increases and adjustments to the solid waste service fees as outlined above are not presented by a majority of property owners of the identified parcels and tenants upon which the solid waste service fee are proposed to be imposed, the City Council will be authorized to impose the respective rate increases and adjustments." 

What Can You Do?

What Can You Do?
If you agree that a pending multi-million-dollar waste disposal contract should be put out to competitive bid...

If you agree that a 30 percent rate hike to Paso Robles landowners and renters cannot be justified without seeing an open bidding process...

Tell these four city council members you don't support a 2022 
rate hike unless this waste disposal contract is put out to bid.

Steve Gregory, Mayor pro Tem -- sgregory@prcity.com
John Hamon --  jhamon@prcity.com
Fred Strong -- fstrong@prcity.com
Maria Garcia -- mgarcia@prcity.com
General City Council email -- council@prcity.com

Don't bother calling Mayor Steve Martin; he is recusing himself from the rate hike issue because he has a professional relationship with Paso Robles Waste & Recycle.

One way or another, your voice can count:

Make a formal objection to the rate hike in the absence of a contract bid process. Or,

Email one or all of the council members. These won't contribute to the 50 percent-plus-one requirement, but will be presented to the council. Or,

Telephone your objection: Paso Robles city telephone -- 805-237-3888. Again, the number of calls will be reported to the council.

Do this prior to the city council's public hearing on the matter May 19.

Who Am I?

So, who am I? And why am I doing this? My name is Dan Blackburn. I'm a retired newspaper reporter who has lived in Paso Robles for 25 years. During my career I reported on vigorous bidding contests between waste hauling companies. I sat through endless months of waste disposal contract negotiations between Western Waste, BFI and others, and the councils of several Los Angeles County and Orange County cities. In Sacramento, I wrote on complicated statewide trash issues and legislation as a regularly featured contributor to the California Journal, a respected political publication.

I had the time this year, so I read the city of El Paso de Robles's contract with Paso Robles Waste & Recycle. As usual, it was full of technical data and incomprehensible charts and formulas. But I couldn't miss this: the proposed rate hike is being automatically extended through 2027. The current contract with Paso Robles Waste & Recycle extends through 2022. I couldn't miss the wide variation in rates between neighboring communities. And I couldn't miss this fact: This is a no-bid contract, for which there is no logical justification.

Let your city council members know you don't support a rate hike in the absence of a bidding process for this contract.

Who Am I?

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