Political Notebook

Trash discussion turns into trash talk between Fresno County supervisors

Andreas Borgeas
Andreas Borgeas

Talking about trash turned into trash talking by Fresno County supervisors during a hearing Tuesday about extending an agreement with local trash haulers.

The haulers’ 12-year agreement with the county will end in 2018, which means it’s up to county supervisors to amend the agreement and then approve a proposed 10-year extension.

Under the process, county officials meet with haulers and examine changes required by state law and then agree to trash rates for county residents based on where they live. Urban rates, for example, are lower than rates for mountain areas because of the number of miles traveled.

When the agreement was reached, the county divided the county into franchise areas to ensure that haulers could have roughly the same number of customers in new territories as they did prior to the territorial arrangements.

Supervisor Henry R. Perea wants a separate request for proposal drawn up for the Mayfair area, a county area surrounded by the city of Fresno. He said he wants the “pilot program” for his constituents to see if they can get a better deal.

The county hauler, Allied Waste Services, charges about $30 per month, but Perea said a comparable city service is $19 monthly. Fresno County doesn’t have mandatory trash pickup, which means residents can opt out of trash pickup. In the city, it’s mandatory. In Mayfair, about 2,000 customers – or 75 percent of residents – have trash pickup. That number represents about 20 percent of Allied Waste’s customers; if Mayfair was served by another hauler, it would affect the price Allied Waste charges for service.

Keith Hester, Allied Waste’s general manager, told supervisors Tuesday that if the county is singling out one hauler, supervisors should consider a new contract for the entire county to get the best deal.

Perea said

he wants customers to have the lowest possible rates.

“If we can improve the service for our customers, increase the service for them and improve and lower their rates,” Perea said, “What would be a better win than that?”

Supervisor Andreas Borgeas described Perea’s idea for bidding out the Mayfair area separately as “unfairly targeting one particular hauler for a number of political reasons, and if you say otherwise I would probably wish to challenge that as well.

Perea interjected: “Why don’t you tell us what those are?”

Borgeas continued: “I think anybody who reads The Fresno Bee knows what office you’re running for,” referring to the race for Fresno mayor. Perea has not yet taken out papers to run for mayor.

Perea shot back: “Who is our primary customer as a board of supervisors, the hauler or the customer?”

Borgeas replied, “that’s a ridiculous question...” before Board Chairman Buddy Mendes intervened to return to public comment.

On Wednesday, Borgeas said Perea didn’t favor lower rates for Fresno city customers when he supported the city sanitation workers’ union against an effort to privatize Fresno’s trash hauling.

“It’s disingenuous, at best, that member Perea is advocating for the best interest of the ratepayer given his strident opposition to the privatization of residential and commercial trash pickup with the city of Fresno,” he said.

Allied Waste was one of two private haulers in that battle.

Allied Waste’s government relations representative, Mark Scozzari, also has worked on political campaigns of Perea family opponents in the past.

Scozzari said he’s reluctant to say that Perea’s opposition to Allied Waste is because of him, but “we’ve never been a supporter of his and I don’t think he wants us servicing his area.”

It’s unlikely that the city will pick up trash in the Mayfair area anytime soon.

Fresno city spokesman Mark Standriff said the city doesn’t “plan in the future to provide solid waste services outside the city’s corporate limits.”

Ultimately, supervisors voted to wait to prepare a request for proposal until the county gets a rate package and proposed boundaries. That discussion is expected later this year.

Marc Benjamin: 559-441-6166, @beebenjamin