By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Healdsburg City Council is poised to extend its contract with the city’s garbage hauler for 10 years after the company agreed to sweeten its offer for a long-term deal.
The extension would add about 1.5 percent to a typical residential bill in the first year.
Redwood Empire Disposal offered a number of inducements for a 10-year rather than 5-year contract, including offering some discounted rates and paying the city a one-time, $150,000 contract extension fee.
The refuse company also agreed to haul sludge from the city’s new wastewater plant, a savings of about $160,000 annually, according to public works officials.
“Overall, the package looks good for the community and the ratepayer,” Mayor Jim Wood said Friday.
In negotiations, the company also agreed to chip in $8,000 a year to help sponsor the annual Fourth of July fireworks show.
Redwood Empire Disposal is part of the Ratto Group, which, through various subsidiaries, has the garbage hauling contracts for eight of Sonoma County’s nine cities and the unincorporated areas.
“The reality is, we haven’t found anyone satisfactory to do their job,” said Councilman Gary Plass, adding that the tentative contract “is good for the community and the service is there.”
The contract could be approved at the City Council’s July 6 meeting, but both Wood and Councilman Mike McGuire say they want more clarification on the amount of refuse that will be diverted from landfills.
The contract calls for 45 percent of refuse to be diverted, meaning recycled or composted.
But McGuire said Sonoma County overall may already be achieving a higher rate and there is pending state legislation that could mandate up to 70 percent diversion rate.
“There needs to be additional discussion on Healdsburg setting the standard when it comes to diversion of waste,” McGuire said of the new contract. “Diversion is not only good for the environment, it saves the residents every month when it comes to fees.”
The discussion comes amid efforts to increase diversion county-wide and also extend the life of the central landfill off Mecham Road east of Cotati, which has been closed for several years due to groundwater contamination issues but may be reopened. Sonoma County’s garbage is now hauled to Marin and Solano County landfills.
The typical resident of Healdsburg with a 64-gallon trash container now pays $17.10 a month, according to Public Works Director Mike Kirn. Under the current contract, Redwood Empire Disposal is allowed to increase rates annually to keep up with inflation, which would mean an increase to $17.90 per month beginning in July, Kirn said.
The company however wants to link its rates in part to the cost of fuel, which would raise the typical residential customer to $18.16 a month beginning in July.
City Council members agreed to the formula because the increase appears negligible and the rate also could dip if the price of fuel declines.
Other concessions made by Redwood Empire Disposal include:
– A 20 percent discount for low-income households, Healdsburg Hospital and Alliance Medical Center.
– An additional green can, for yard clippings, for residential customers.
– An increase of a $5,000 annual payment to the city to $15,000.
– An expansion of service to public areas downtown and initiation of an annual curbside collection event for residents’ large items.
– Clean-up illegal dumpsites — for example, along creeks or railroad tracks — at up to 12 locations per year.