Although the controversy over trash hauling has been limited in Cypress for the past few months, the lingering scent of the city’s murky dealings with Valley Vista trash resurfaced this week.
Starting in July, residents should see an increase of three percent on their Valley Vista trash bills, resulting in a monthly total increase of $23.32 following a City Council vote this week.
The decision to raise the monthly rate for trash hauling services came after a 4-1 vote by the council to bump expenses for the trash hauler to offset inflationary costs, the result of an oft discussed contract that the previous council gifted to the trash hauler, while extending it until 2037 without getting any other bids.
The one dissenting voice on the dais came from Councilmember Frances Marquez who has remained skeptical of the trash company’s dealings.
“I don’t support this. In January 2022. I voted against this trash contract because of its extension until 2037 without going to bid and with the 32% rate increase that’s not fixed. So, with this annual price index rate adjustment…. I’m just saying I don’t support it,” said Marquez.
For recap, the increased rate adjustment in question was at the center of a large debate back in Nov. 2021, when the council voted to grant a questionable franchise agreement that included yearly increases affiliated with the CPI, and extended the contract to 2037.
The specific amendment to the cities contract with Valley Vista reads as follows:
“With respect to the CPI Calculation Adjustment, the Agreement provides an annual CPI-based fee adjustment every April. The CPI adjustment is capped at 3.5% on regular disposal and 5% on green waste/organic waste disposal; however, in order to account for rising inflation, the CPI adjustment has been modified as follows: if/when CPI exceeds the established caps, rates increase to the cap, plus 85% of the CPI increase above the cap. This will ensure that rates do not exceed the costs of providing solid waste services.”
Having called a public hearing over the matter a few months later in January 2022, one of the residents who spoke in fierce opposition at the meeting regarding Valley Vista’s contract was David Burke, who now sits on the council.
As a resident, Burke called the public hearing a “farce,” since the agreement had already been decided without residential input. In addition, Burke also questioned why cities such as Los Al had offers from Valley Vista to freeze rates without being tied to CPI index, but Cypress did not.
Actually, in its previous contract, Valley Vista’s CPI price increase was capped at 3%, but the Council inexplicably removed the provision and allowed the company pass higher prices on its residents.
According to OC Waste and Recycling 2022 trash rate survey, neighboring cities such as Los Al have the lowest rate in all of Orange County which sits at $12.95 per month—-thanks to their open-bidding process, which Cypress opted out of doing, instead preferring to go with a contract process overseen by then Council member Jon Peat.
Despite having a seat at the table now that Valley Vista is being brought up again, Burke remained silent when the item was pulled for discussion by Councilmember Marquez during the last council meeting.
During her comment, Councilmember Marquez addressed the hardship the agreement has had on the working people of Cypress.
“I really feel that this vote hurt the working people of Cypress, and this is because trash is expensive now and I just feel for the people that have to pay a higher rate when everyone is struggling with inflation,” said Marquez .
The motion to pass the rate adjustment increase carried by four yes votes by Mayor Hertz-Mallari, Mayor Pro Tem Scott Minikus, Councilmember Bonni Peat, and lastly Councilmember Burke.
Complaints from residents aired out across social media before and after the meeting in which they grudgingly compared the quantitative cost VVS is charging versus the qualitative service they are receiving.
“I’ve lived in Cypress since the early 80s, and this is the worst trash company the city has ever had, yet we continue to pay higher rates, which is ridiculous, the city Council doesn’t fight for citizens at all,” said resident Joe Wiklem.
“It would be nice if they actually got the trash and recycling for once. They leave my cans half empty at least twice a month and let’s be clear, they are not over-stuffed, so I am not even sure how they manage that.” commented Kelly Unger Wirchak.
In addition, other residents in the comments brought up the continuous argument over conflict of interests surrounding members of the council tied to Valley Vista campaign funds.
“I think lots of people should attend the meeting and demand that Hertz and Peat and Minikus recuse themselves from the vote. They have conflicts: Valley Vista put $20k into Peat/Minikus campaign PAC. Valley Vista gives free service to the organization run by Hertz.” said Ed Kraemer.
Given his outspoken advocacy against the city’s dealings pertaining to Valley Vista in the past, residents also pointed out their disappointment that Burke did not uphold his opposition in the vote.
“I’m grateful Frances Marquez voted against this rate hike last night and despite it being already part of the initial contract, I’m disappointed David Burke voted for it. David is reasonable and honest, so I’m hoping he can give his justification here,” commented Cypress watchdog Katie Shapiro, who created the thread.
In response to this, Burke concurred with the frustration residents were facing amid trash rates, however alluded to his hands being tied due to the contractual obligation.
“I don’t think any resident, myself included, wants to see their trash bills increase every year. That’s one of the reasons I did not support the previous council’s decision to extend the city’s agreement with Valley Vista until 2037 without a competitive bidding process. “
“But the fact is that the previous council agreed to annual rate adjustments as part of that contract,” he continued. “The vote last Monday was merely to receive this year’s adjustment. I voted in favor because even though I did not personally support the contract, I believe it is important for the city to honor its contractual obligation.” concluded Burke.