Thousand Oaks hires new trash collector offering lower rates

Citing the lower tariffs, Thousand Oaks City Council approved a 15-year contract with a new garbage collector, Athens Services, on Tuesday evening, rather than staying with the city’s two long-standing garbage haulage companies, EJ Harrison & Sons and Waste Management.

“I think this package that Athens put together is pretty compelling,” Al Adam said at the end of a three-hour hearing. “Thirty-four percent less for our residents with lots of new services that we are not currently receiving,” including hazardous waste collection at residents’ homes and days of bulky item collection.

Councilor Bob Engler agreed.

“The cost is much lower,” he said. “It is our job as a city council to find ways to offer our citizens a service at a lower cost.”

Waste Management and EJ Harrison & Sons have signed exclusive franchise agreements with the city in various forms since 1998. This emerges from a report for the council meeting on Tuesday evening prepared by Helen Cox, the city’s chief sustainability officer.

Existing agreements with the two companies were due to expire on June 30, but were extended by the 2019 Council to December 31, 2021 to allow more time to continue negotiating new agreements, the Cox report said.

In January 2020, the council rejected the letter of intent terms negotiated with the two companies and directed staff to start the process of soliciting proposals from garbage transport companies for a new deal with the city.

It was the first time the city launched a call for proposals for an exclusive solid waste franchise in Thousand Oaks, the report said.

Proposals were submitted by Athens, Waste Management, Harrison & Sons, and American Reclamation.

A five-person review committee made up of city officials and employees of a city-appointed consultant, R3 Consulting Group, weighed the four proposals and rated Athens the highest on a number of criteria, including service rates and customer service.

The monthly rates proposed by Athens were lower than those of Waste Management and Harrison, the report said.

For basic services in residential areas, Athens suggested $ 24.36, Harrison $ 33.54, and waste management suggested $ 33.75.

For basic commercial utilities, Athens suggested $ 174.99, Harrison $ 317, and Waste Management suggested $ 290.34.

City officials recommended that the city council approve a 15-year contract with Athens from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2036.

The council voted 5-0 for it.

“Athens is the right choice for your community,” said Gary Clifford, executive vice president of the company, to the council prior to its vote. “We will create a tariff relief for your residents and companies while providing brand new equipment and new recycling programs at the same time.”

He noted that Athens, based in the industrial city in Los Angeles County, provides garbage transportation services to Santa Paula.

Representatives from Harrison & Sons of Ventura and Waste Management of Simi Valley said the lower rates in Athens were unrealistic.

“It sounds too good to be true,” said Mike Harrison, Harrison & Sons technical director. “When that process began, the council stated … that they would not go for the lowest price, but the best price.

“And it really seems that the staff did just the opposite,” he said.

Doug Corcoran of Waste Management asked the council to postpone its decision for 30 days.

“Awards like this one that are so untouched that we think they should be suspicious of the rest of their proposal,” he said.

In response, Clifford said, “It appears our competitors are having issues with our pricing.”

But “our price is a solid price,” he said. “… There will be no (initial) bargain price in the basement and then go upstairs.

“And by the end of that 15-year deal you will still be lower than you are today,” he said.

Most of the 29 speakers at the hearing on Tuesday evening said they were in favor of the city of Athens.

“I support Athens for so many reasons, mostly because of its competitive pricing that we can all take advantage of,” said Shannon Blommer, Thousand Oaks resident.

But the vast majority of the 141 written comments the city received were against Athens, said Mayor Claudia Bill-de-la-Peña.

At the end of the hearing, Bill-de la Peña thanked Harrison and Waste Management for their years as Thousand Oaks garbage trucks.

“We are very grateful to Harrison and Waste Management,” she said.

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Mike Harris covers the cities of Moorpark, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, and Ventura, as well as the entire county. You can contact him at [email protected] or 805-437-0323.

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