Los Al officially approves Universal Waste, adopts organic waste program

It's official. UWS in. Republic Services out in Los Alamitos.

The City of Los Alamitos has passed its organic waste recycling and recovery plan at cost to residents nearly 30 percent lower than in nearby communities.

Although there was a bit of the dust-up when the Council decided to switch from Republic Services to Universal Waste of Los Angeles, the Council voted 5-0 at their most recent meeting in November to approve their organic waste plan.

Following a brief presentation by Development Services Director Ron Noda, the Council approved the measure, capping a year-long process of selecting a new waste hauler and finally, implementing a plan to satisfy the mandates of Senate Bill 1383.

Noda said the city hired waste management consultant Mike Balliet to work with the analysis staff. Without hesitation, Noda said he was confident that the switch to Universal was “the best choice for Los Alamitos at this time.”

“The new waste hauler contract between the City of Los Alamitos and Universal provides the same level of service and in some cases enhanced services for our residents and businesses,” said Mayor Mark Chirco.

“At the same time, Los Alamitos businesses and residents will be paying a very favorable rate with the residential service being the lowest or among the lowest in all of Orange County,” he said.

“Los Alamitos residents will end up saving millions of dollars over the life of the contract when compared to some of the other waste hauler options,” said Chirco.

Although there was significant public support for Republic Services during the process, Chirco said then that the Council could not overlook the potential savings of $12 million offered by the new agreement with Universal.

“I have confidence in city staff,” Chirco said then. “I trust that they have evaluated, what is the source for that low price, and all other factors.” he said.

At the meeting this past week, Noda said Los Alamitos is now ahead of the schedule to meet the mandates of the new state regulations.

The state legislation, which Noda termed a “mandate from Sacramento,” requires municipalities to implement new rules of handling organic wastes by 2022.

“Those requirements include providing organic waste recycling to all residents and businesses,” he said.

In addition, Noda said city staff has been working very closely with Universal Waste, which assumes control of the waste pickup in Los Alamitos January 1, to ensure a smooth launch of the organic waste program.

Noda said the city was ready to implement an edible food program by working with local nonprofit Food Finders, and that they are prepared to conduct outreach and education to all affected parties.

“I want to report that we are on track to meet a lot of the mandates and compliance before the dates,” said Noda. “We are doing what we need to do,” he added.

“Results like this don’t just happen,” said city manager Chet Simmons.

“The Mayor and City Council were very deliberate about their goals and objectives for this contract and what they wanted to achieve for Los Alamitos residents and businesses,” he said.

Taking that direction, the staff was able to craft a process that ensured not only transparency, but also resulted in Los Alamitos enjoying the lowest waste hauler rate in Orange County, the city manager said.

Referring to the organic waste mandate, Council member Ron Bates said he wanted to make sure city taxpayers understood this was another unfunded state mandate.

“Let’s be sure the residents understand this,” said Council member Ron Bates. “This is typical of the state,” said Bates, “the state mandates stuff on cities, and provides zero, zero funding to do this.”

“So what happens is that the [waste hauler] contracts increase over time to pay for this,” said Bates.

“Let’s be clear, this is a state mandate, not that it is not a good idea, but we’re paying for it as local residents,” said Bates, making sure residents knew their waste bills were going up because the state is requiring communities to comply with new organic waste recycling rules.

Upon Noda’s team recommendation, the Los Al council voted last month to accept a lower bid proposal from Universal Waste, despite a last-minute lobbying onslaught trying to save a waste contract for its current contractor, Republic Services.

While many local businesses spoke in favor of Republic, four council members were convinced the proposed cost savings to taxpayers was worth the change and transition.
On a motion by Council member Ron Bates, the Council voted 4 – 1 to award a contract to Universal Waste Systems, Inc., based in Los Angeles, to provide waste disposal and recovery services to the city for the next seven years.

Incoming Mayor Shelley Hasselbrink said she voted against the motion because she wanted more time to explore the city’s options.

The vote to approve the final agreement with Universal last week at their most recent meeting, however, was unanimous.

“We won’t let you down,” said Mark Blackburn, President of Universal Waste Systems, Inc., upon his initial approval.

Los Al officially approves Universal Waste, adopts organic waste program