Upland Council Unable To Reach Consensus On Burrtec Franchise Extension

(October 31) The effort to extend Burrtec’s trash hauling franchise with the city of Upland from its current seven-year rollover term to 15 years fell short this week when the city council deadlocked 2-2 in its vote on the proposal.
Burrtec, which as the result of a bidding competition with Los Angeles County-based Athens Services in April lost a $17 million per year contract  it held for the previous dozen years for the operation of all of San Bernardino County’s landfills,  is now seeking to solidify its hold on the trash hauling franchises it has with 16 of San Bernardino County’s incorporated cities and 34 of its unincorporated communities. It has made a test case of Upland, where it has proposed adding street sweeping and household hazardous waste and medical waste disposal to the services it already offers in return for the city’s consent to lengthen the “evergreen” clause in the contract, which locks the city into the franchise arrangement, and increase the rate it charges Upland’s customers by 7.2 percent for the remainder of 2013-14; another 2.1 percent in July 2014; 2.1 percent in July 2015; 2.3 percent in July 2016; and 2.4 percent in 2017. Increases beyond that would be tied to the Consumer Price Index.
Currently, under the so-called evergreen clause instilled into the contract by former Upland mayor John Pomierski, the city is committed to keep Burrtec as its trash hauler at least until 2020. If it does not give notice to Burrtec by March of each successive year that it wishes to rebid the contract, the franchise is renewed again, i.e., kept green, for at least seven more years.  The franchise contract extension proposal put forth by Burrtec in May in a letter to public works director Rosemary Horning and finally voted upon by the city council on Monday of this week would have extended the evergreen clause by another eight years, such that the earliest Upland could get out of the contract with Burrtec would have been 2028.
Councilman Brendan Brandt, whose law firm has done legal work for Athens Services, abstained from the vote and discussion of the matter. Mayor Ray Musser and councilman Gino Filippi, who have received political contributions from Burrtec, were able to vote because those contributions had been provided to them more than a year ago, and the city’s ordinance which prohibits council members from voting on issues impacting a donor extends only to donations made within 12 months of such a vote.
Horning, city manager Stephen Dunn, and Horning’s second-in-command, assistant public works director Acquanetta Warren, along with R3 Consulting Group Inc., which was hired to evaluate Burrtec’s proposal, recommended that the city approve the contract extension. Councilman Glenn Bozar, however, said he could not accept doing so without first seeking bids from other trash haulers. Thus, he called for giving Burrtec notice under the terms of the current contract and going out to bid in six more years.
Staff, supported by councilwoman Debra Stone and Filippi, countered Bozar’s suggestion, emphasizing that the city’s share of solid waste program revenues has been eaten up in the past several years by increasing disposal costs that the city must bear to the point that the city will soon be losing money on the program. The Burrtec contract extension would avert that problem, they said.
Dunn warned that Burrtec is due to receive rate increases under the current contract. Bozar, in response, suggested that the city, which handles the trash service billing of the city’s residents and businesses, could increase the trash service rates independent of altering the current contract with Burrtec to head off any deficit the city runs on the trash program.
Mayor Ray Musser’s vote thus proved crucial in the decision. He said he was troubled by the  perception of a conflict of interest with regard to Warren, as deputy public works director, having recommended approval of the franchise extension. Warren, who is also the mayor of Fontana where Burrtec has a trash hauling franchise, had received $11,578 in campaign contributions from Burrtec prior to giving her recommendation in favor of the company and, five days after she made that recommendation, put on a fundraiser at which Burrtec participated as a major sponsor.
After Musser raised the issue of the potential conflict, city attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow attempted to intervene, rendering an opinion that there was no legal conflict of interest in Warren’s participation with regard to the contract.
This only intensified Musser’s objection. “You can say it’s legally okay, but it is not okay ethically. It reeks. It looks bad,” the seemingly incensed mayor told Barlow.
He voted against the contract extension, which failed on the resultant 2-2 vote.

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