The city is poised to extend its garbage contact in exchange for $750,000 a year toward the general fund and street maintenance, the Press Democrat is reporting.
On Monday, the council was ready to vote to continue using Petaluma Refuse & Recycling, but was stopped by a last-minute submission from a lawyer representing two environmental groups who urged the city to conduct a full environmental review before extending the contract.
The groups include Petaluma River Council, run by David Keller, and No Wetlands Landfill Expansion, a citizen watchdog organization concerned about the proposed expansion of the Redwood Landfill in Novato where much of Sonoma County's garbage ends up.
Under the proposed plan, garbage rates would increase about 4 percent on July 1. Later they would be tied to the consumer-price-index type for the industry, which has averaged around 3 percent per year, the Press Democrat is reporting.
If passed, Petaluma Refuse & Recycling, part of the Ratto Group, which provides waste service to eight out of nine Sonoma County cities, Petaluma would receive $500,000 a year for the next 15 years (a total of $8 million).
The plan also increases the vehicle impact fee the company pays the city to $250,000 a year, which can be passed on to customers. The money would be set aside in a special fund for street repair.
Last year, the city amended its municipal code that required companies to compete for projects, prompting criticism that the move was nothing but “special interest legislation” that puts ratepayers at risk while not giving other companies a chance to bid on the contract.
The city’s current garbage contract expires in 2016 and according to the charter, a franchise agreement cannot be renewed earlier than one year before it expires. But because of promises of money in return for a renewed contract, many on the council believe this is an opportunity they can’t afford to pass up.
But according to Mark Koorenny, a principal at Koorenny & Teitelbaum, based in Brentwood, Calif. the city’s decision to amendd it bidding requirements is “illegal, unconstitutional” and an unlawful use of public funds.
In a November 2011 letter to the city, Koorenny wrote that "regardless of the city’s attempt to circumvent the charter by clever wordplay, (the ordinance) violates the equal protection of the law by creating a special, favored class of trash hauling franchisees who have an unfair inside track on public contracts without the need for competitive bidding."
The issue will likely come back to the council next month.