By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Windsor debris removal company has sued Rohnert Park, arguing that a fee the city wants to charge companies that win a hauling contract is “tantamount to a bribe.”
Pacific Sanitation’s suit says the city requires the company that wins the contract, now out for bids, to pay $300,000 in addition to other fees.
“We operate all over and we’ve never seen any fees like this,” said Dustin Abbott, a Pacific Sanitation co-owner. “We’re asking to stop the process and get rid of those fees.”
Members of the City Council’s Waste and Recycling Committee, which oversees waste collection issues, said they were not aware that the city’s request for a proposal had such a requirement.
“I don’t know if they have asked for that kind of thing before,” said Councilwoman Pam Stafford, who is on the committee.
Other city officials, including the city attorney, did not return calls seeking comment.
The estimated revenue from hauling construction and demolition materials in Rohnert Park was $239,000 a year.
For an exclusive agreement, the city would, as the lawsuit describes, require a one-time $300,000 fee. For a non-exclusive contract, the city would require $50,000 from each hauler under contract.
But the hauling service is not mandatory, meaning that independent contractors can still take away their own debris, reducing the contract hauler’s income.
“If all the independent contractors decided to self-haul, you would never recover the money,” Abbott said.
Under that arrangement, it would take years to make up the $300,000 fee, Abbott said.
In addition, he said, it would require charging customers up to 150 percent more than normal, from $750 to $1,500 compared to $250 to $500.
“How can a company operate in that environment unless they charge outrageous rates to its customers,” Abbott said.
The contract to haul construction and demolition debris also levies a 15 percent franchise fee, but that is a routine practice.