Valley Vista reverses course on rate increase, CNG proposal

It's a no-go after Cypress requests documents from Valley Vista.

Residents within the city of Cypress learned at the city council’s meeting in March that Valley Vista Services has withdrawn all interest in projects that could result in either a strategic partnership or a rate increase for waste customers.

A few months ago, Cypress was discussing a strategic partnership with Valley Vista Services (VVS), its current trash hauler. Now, after a change in the committee’s makeup, the company has apparently withdrawn all interest in their own proposal.

Mayor Jon Peat announced at the meeting the news that VVS had abandoned its plans for any projects that could justify rate increases, contract extensions, even divorcing itself from it’s own prospect of a CNG facility at the city’s public works yard.

Late last year, city officials were discussing allowing VVS to utilize the city’s public works yard for a direct tip transfer facility, then when that fizzled the partners considered a compressed natural gas facility with either a contract extension or rate increase to pay for it.

In 2020, Peat and Council member Paulo Morales, acting as an ad-hoc subcommittee, had explored the VVS proposal. Following a heated meeting before last year’s election, the council agreed to wait to act on any of the proposals until new council members could be seated.

One of the new council members elected last fall included Frances Marquez, who exchanged words with Mayor Jon Peat during their first council meeting after being sworn in over the issue.

During the first meeting of the new council, while discussing Valley Vista, Marquez asked for the financial “justification” for any extension or rate increase. “We didn’t discuss costs,” said Peat.

Nevertheless, after some political wrangling, Marquez ended up on a new adhoc subcommittee with Peat to continue exploring the VVS proposal, the results of which were not discussed until the meeting two weeks ago.

“We met (with VVS) approximately three times,” said Peat. “Recently, Valley Vista has said, and confirmed, that it is not going to seek the rate adjustments,” the mayor said, “and also it is not going to pursue a natural gas CNG fueling station of the public works yard.”
He announced that the company instead had decided to focus on developing local guidelines for a state mandated requirement for the collection of organic wastes. Peat did not elaborate.

Marquez, however, had a message for the public, expressing concern about the company “lack of timeliness,” noting the company failed to reply promptly and did not comply fully with its request for documents before deciding to abandon their plans.

“We asked for financial statements for the 12 months prior to the pandemic from February 2019 through February 2020,” said Marquez, and “we asked for financial statements during the pandemic beginning March 2020.”

Marquez reinterated key financial information that was requested by the adhoc subcommittee, including “when adjustments for pandemic related losses would end. We also asked for a description of the consequences and viability of the franchise, if the rate adjustment was not permitted,” said Marquez.

Instead of receiving the documents, the city received an email that informed the city they were withdrawing their proposal and any other request, said Peat. Marquez even suggested the city should begin looking elsewhere for waste hauling services, if for any reason they would be needed.

“I hope that in the coming months they’ll come up with a good plan for organics,” said Marquz, “but I also want to recommend that we think about considering going out to bid in the future to see what other options we will have.”

Mayor Pro-tem Stacy Berry congratulated Peat and Marquez, saying “I am delighted with the news they’re (Valley Vista) not moving forward.”

In a more subtle skirmish later in the meeting, Marquez and Berry proverbially slapped the hand of city manager Peter Grant for a word in the strategic planning report that would seemingly fast track a long-term employment agreement.

Cypress city council members expressed satisfaction, and, in fact, praised Grant and city staff following their recent strategic planning session, except for one small, troubling detail.
A document emanating from the planning session that included a strategic objective included an item that said “negotiate a long term agreement with the city manager,” which prompted Marquez to ask that it be changed.

“It would be good to adjust the language on discussing the long term contract extension,” said Marquez, saying it would be appropriate to have “discuss” or “consider” said extension, rather than jump all the way to “negotiate.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Stacy Berry then agreed with Marquez, noticing that under the category of “maintain high quality and high value services for the community,” there was a priority for the city manager’s contract negotiation.

“I realize that we’ll be talking about this at a future closed session,” said Berry, “but I’m just not comfortable with that current wording as it sounds like it’s already been decided and pre-determined.”

Berry also suggested changing “negotiate” to “discuss or consider.”

After an awkward pause, Mayor Jon Peat attempted to remind the council had declared before the election to negotiate Grant’s long-term contract. In essence, Peat said the only reason Grant did not already have a long-term agreement was the the previous council decided to wait for the new council members to be elected, then consider the item.
“I guess I don’t know what words you would want to want to put in here,” said Peat.

City attorney Fred Galante stepped in and informed Peat he saw the words only as “a placeholder,” but said if the council wanted to change the word, it was “their prerogative” to do so.

The Council indeed changed the wording to say “discuss” a long-term contract extension for the city manager and a motion by Berry, seconded by Council member Paulo Morales passed unanimously.

In other action at its most recent meeting in March, the Cypress Council;
• Accepted the 2020 General Plan Annual Progress Report on the implementation of the Housing Element prepared by city planning director Alicia Velasco.
• Accepted the Sewer Relining, Project 265, in the amount of $115,400.51 and approved the final retention payment of $5,770.02 to Sancon Engineering.
• Approved plans and specifications and awarded contracts for the annual Slurry Seal project to Roy Allan Slurry Seal, Santa Fe Springs, CA for $483,027.13, and authorized a contingency of $72,500.
• Approved a Task Order for Construction Inspection Services to TRC (Vali Cooper and Associates, Inc.), for $68,462, and authorize a contingency of $10,300.
• Approved plans and specifications for the Katella Avenue Median Restoration.
• Approved an $83,100 task order with LSA for an Environmental Initial Study/Mitigated Declaration for a proposed residential development at 9470 Moody Street (Cypress School District Headquarters)
• Confirmed the Emergency Services Director’s six-month time extension of the temporary outdoor storage permit for Earth-Friendly Products; and the City Manager/Emergency Services Director right to approve additional extension for up to 12 months after the City Council’s COVID-19 Proclamation of Local Emergency is rescinded.
• Proclaimed the month of April 2021 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.