With San Ramon’s current solid waste franchise agreement set to expire in one year, the City Council continues to discuss who should manage the city’s waste and recycling services for the next 10 to 15 years, narrowing its options down to two potential companies.
After nearly three hours of deliberation at its regular meeting Tuesday night, council members remained unconvinced that its current provider, Waste Management of Alameda County, was the best choice for managing San Ramon’s waste service needs, despite city staff’s recommendation that it would be.
“This community, and it's a sign of the times, they are focused on the environment and ease of use and they will pay accordingly for those things,” Councilman Harry Sachs said at the meeting. “We want the best overall deal not the cheapest … I am not seeing that cheaper is better here. I think to take the better bid is what we ought to be doing, not the cheapest bid.”
Sachs was referring to a survey conducted by city staff in February and April, asking residents to prioritize existing and proposed solid waste and recycling services. When asked to prioritize low cost, ease of use and what is best for the environment, residents and businesses ranked the environment as their top concern, followed by ease of use, placing the lowest priority on cost of services.
While Waste Management did offer residents the lowest increase in rates, only an estimated increase of 24% for single-family homes, the rates from the other potential providers were not far off. Green Solutions of San Ramon, city staff’s second choice for the contract, offered rate increases of 31%, but did propose higher diversion rates -- the percentage of garbage that would be diverted from the landfill to a recycling center.
According to San Ramon program manager David Krueger, after initial negotiations Waste Management offered diversion rates of 67% by 2029, while Green Solutions offered 90% by that year.
“Our city has always been mindful of getting a good deal for our dollar and that's important. But our community has made some decisions that we are willing to pay a little bit more of a premium if we can get something that's really good for the environment,” Mayor Bill Clarkson said in agreement with Sachs.
While council members were mindful of the importance residents placed on the environment, they did acknowledge that overall residents have been satisfied by the services provided by Waste Management, according to the city survey.
“Your own survey shows that your residents give us a 91% rating, that we do provide very good service. Can we improve? Definitely, and we're here to do that,” said Alex Oseguera vice president and general manager at Waste Management. “You are getting a very very quality program for a very effective cost, as opposed to saying that it is a low bid.”
The council also discussed the possibility of -- should they stick with Waste Management -- outsourcing its call center from San Ramon to Phoenix, a measure that would give the city an annual savings of $439,407 a year, or 2% per user.
Toward the end of the meeting, the council decided it was not ready to make a decision and requested staff come back to a future meeting for further deliberations. The council hopes to make a decision within the next couple of weeks and give final approval to one of the garbage service providers at its Nov. 13 meeting.