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Santa Barbara Council Weighs In on Tentative Trash Contract with MarBorg

The proposed agreement calls for some significant rate changes, but not for single-family residential customers

The Santa Barbara council weighed in Tuesday on a tentative 10-year agreement with MarBorg Industries for the city’s trash services.

The council members were complimentary, thanking both negotiating teams, and said the new contract will benefit the city as a whole.

The city has been negotiating with MarBorg for months, resulting in a proposal that staff members said was much better than the original offering last fall.

Before the agreement can be approved, it will come back to the City Council in December, undergo a public hearing, and eventually would need the support from a super-majority on the City Council.

Starting in June 2013, the tentative agreement would cost the city $16.79 million per year, which would increase with the Consumer Price Index and tipping fee adjustments, according to city staff.

MarBorg would be asked to increase overall diversion by 1 percent each year, starting at 39 percent.

Mayor Helene Schneider said the process had many twists and turns, but it was apparent that there was patience and respect among all sides.

She said some of the highlights of the proposal are new services, such as sharps containers by mail, battery and cell phone disposal, unlimited green waste disposal for single-family homes and picking up items left along public right-of-ways. Furniture, appliances and trash “just appear overnight” on sidewalks and park strips, Schneider said, and MarBorg would be picking up those items as well.

While single-family residential customers wouldn’t see rates increase under the agreement — and many would see them fall, because of more free recycling and green waste — multi-unit residential and business customers could see significant rate changes, according to Tuesday’s staff report.

“In the multi-unit residential sector, 35 percent will see decreases or no increase, 49 percent will see increases of 1 percent to 15 percent, and 16 percent of customers will see increases greater than 15 percent,” the report states. “In the business sector, 31 percent of customers will see decreases or no increase, 50 percent of customers will see increases of less than 25 percent, 10 percent of customers will receive increases of 25 to 50 percent and 6 percent of customers will see increases of over 50 percent.”

Councilwoman Cathy Murillo expressed concern about performance measures, since MarBorg is “so dominant in our area.”

Allied Waste Services lost its local contracts with Santa Barbara County and the City of Goleta last June, leaving it to serve only Santa Barbara’s Westside. MarBorg bought Allied last June and took over its Santa Barbara contract on a temporary basis while this current contract was being negotiated.

Murillo asked city staff on Tuesday to “gently inform” people whose rates would increase under the tentative agreement, especially with the reduction in diversion incentives by 50 percent.

“I think there’s going to be a little shock there,” she said.

Mario Borgatello, president of MarBorg Industries, thanked the city for being “a fair party to work with.”

“It’s not a good deal if it’s not a good deal for both sides,” he said.

As for quality of service, Borgatello said his company came out on top in two analyses of service done by the county within the past eight years, and in a recent survey by the City of Goleta, which just changed to a fully automated trash-hauling system.

“We are really very proud of that, given the fact that the service level, the type of service, etc., really changed,” Borgatello said.

The tentative agreement as is would cost $670,000 more than solid waste franchise contracts do now, but the cost for existing service would actually be lower, according to the staff report. That’s due to more expenses for haulers, such as changing over trucks from diesel to compressed natural cash and keeping up with more stringent diversion requirements.

The entire cost of the contract would be funded by ratepayers.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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