After nearly 28 years, Laguna Beach could mull trash contract bids

A Waste Management garbage truck empty bins in Laguna Beach. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

By Clara Beard, Special to the Independent
Laguna Beach may start the hunt for a new trash hauler as its long-term contract with Waste Management is set to wind down in June 2023.

To prepare for the upcoming contract expiration, the Laguna Beach City Council asked its consultant EcoNomics, Inc. and City Manager Shohreh Dupuis to develop a new franchise agreement and Request for Proposals last October. The draft agreement and request for proposals were designed around the city’s unique needs and changes in state law.

Staffers will ask councilmembers to approve both documents on Tuesday. If approved, the city will seek out competitive bids for consideration.

The new franchise agreement would be for eight years, with two optional one-year extensions based on performance measures.

Waste Management of Orange County has been the city’s solid waste hauler for almost 28 years. The current 10-year contract began in July 2013, after Council opted to go ahead with a new agreement with Waste Management rather than spend $100,000 to solicit and review bids.

Then-City Manager John Pietig said some of the drawbacks to considering bids at that time were potential disruptions the city and homeowners would face when transitioning to a new solid waste vendor, particularly when negotiating Laguna Beach’s narrow streets and hilly terrain. The turnover would need to include the training of new drivers and the replacement of trash bins.

In 2013, the City Council also requested Waste Management to power its trash trucks with alternative fuel. This condition triggered a longer contract.

“One of the reasons you needed a seven- to 10-year contract at least was in order to get a vendor to do that, they needed to capitalize their investment,” Pietig told council members during a 2019 council meeting.

At that same June 2019 meeting, councilmembers approved an annual trash bill increase of more than $5, amounting to a 7.5 percent hike to collect homeowners’ trash. City staff said the rate increase was needed to keep up with Waste Management’s $2 million contract for residential waste disposal.

During that time, some homeowners expressed frustration with the rate increase and asked council to seek out better options for the city’s solid waste services. Laguna Beach resident Chris Moore collected names and addresses of 60 parcel owners who felt the same way and said he’d continue to press for a competitive bid once Waste Management’s contract was up in 2023.

“We don’t know how much it actually costs to provide solid waste services to our city because we never asked anyone, and I think it’s really dishonest to charge us an increase to pay for this deal,” Moore said at the June 2019 meeting.

If Laguna Beach City Council votes to approve the Draft Agreement and Request for Proposals, the documents will be released on Aug. 22, with proposals due on Oct. 28. The City hopes to award a contract in early 2023, which would go into effect in July 2024, creating a 14-month runway for the chosen hauler.

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