Slam Dunking Ukiah Ratepayers
by Mark Scaramella, December 14, 2011
The Ukiah City Council, as predicted, slam dunked the ratepayers and gave the City waste hauler everything it could hope for in a twenty year deal for the City's waste collection and operation of the Transfer Station in South Ukiah. The new contract includes about $15.00 in charges per ton of Solid Waste delivered to the Transfer Station that are supposed to go away under the current contract. A charge of $12.36 per ton is supposed to stop when the original construction of the transfer station cost is paid off, probably in 2014, based on current tonnage. And another $2.50 for a 2008 upgrade to the trucking fleet, fully amortized over a five year period, is supposed to end in 2013.
Under the new contract the charges go on forever, or at least for the term of the twenty year contract, which might as well be forever in the current economic climate. The company will also get automatic rate increases equal to 100% of the Consumer Price Index, and 100% of price increases in gas and for the cost of landfill disposal will also be passed through. The current contract only allows increases for 75% of the CPI. The contract also calls for a rate review every five years where the company can ask for additional increases. And if that is still not enough, the company can ask for 'extraordinary' increases any time it wants. This major gift to the distant owners of C&S was advertised to Ukiah's duped public as “stabilizing the rates and protecting the ratepayer.”
Cold Creek Compost, which operates out of Potter Valley and is owned by local guy Martin Mileck, competes with the Ukiah hauler for green waste. Mileck put an offer on the table to accept all green waste, food waste, grease (Ukiah cuisine is heavy on grease), and other unpleasant substances for the bargain price of $16 per ton. The Ukiah hauler, C & S Waste Solutions, is currently obligated to take the Ukiah curbside greenwaste to Cold Creek (for reasons too involved to review here), but takes the rest of the Transfer Station's green waste to Pacific Recycling Solutions, its wholly owned subsidiary. C & S pays $32 per ton at Mileck's Cold Creek and $30.00 per ton at PRS. The City Council was clearly uncomfortable that Mileck was offering to accept all the green waste and food waste at a huge cost savings to the ratepayers, but the Council, Red Phil excepted, managed to brush Mileck's offer aside without a direct response. So instead of slashing the cost to ratepayers and adding food waste to the diversion stream so it can be composted, the Ukiah food waste will be continued to be trucked outtahere and landfilled at the ratepayer's expense.
Only councilman Phil Baldwin dared to question the wisdom of the contracts or the hurry-up need to move forward with the deal in the face of numerous unanswered questions. At one point Benj Thomas explained how much time he and Mary Anne Landis had spent reviewing the issue, as if their self-alleged effort was sufficient reason by itself for going forward with the new contract. They told Baldwin that he should simply accept their word that it was a good deal. Baldwin, unpersuaded, cast the lone dissenting vote.