Protest Of Rate Increase Well Short Of Majority; Garbage Bills Will Go Up In June

Recology ratepayers will see an 8 percent increase on their bills starting June 1.

With just about 3 percent of Recology ratepayers in Pacifica formally protesting the move, the city council tonight voted unanimously to approve an 8 percent increase to garbage bills effective June 1. 

At the close of a public hearing about the proposed increase at about 7:40p.m., Kathy O'Connell, city clerk, had received 351 valid letters of protest. A simple majority, or 50 percent plus 1 letter, would have meant 5,792 protest letters turned in. A majority would have forced the council to vote down the increase. 

Since such a majority did not exist, however, the council was obligated by its contract with Recology of the Coast to approve the increase.

For 44 percent of Pacifica customers who use a 20 gallon garbage cart, an 8 percent means an increase from $20.24 to 21.86 per month for garbage service, or about $19.44 annually. 

Several Pacifica residents who spoke at the public hearing were not happy about the increase.

"Almost everyone is cutting back, yet tonight you are poised to add to their burden," said Thomas Clifford. 

Lionel Emde, who led a the garbage rate increase over the last months, pointed out that residents and business owners in neighboring cities pay much less for garbage service than those in Pacifica. That, he said, makes those places more attractive for living and doing business. 

The 8 percent increase is effective until Dec. 31, 2011, at which time another increase may occur to compensate for what Recology is calling lost revenue while it did a study to set this rate increase.

Emde expressed concern over what he called a lack of documents showing why these increases are necessary.

"The citizens are going to continue to resist and the next rate increase in January of next year, what justification is it going to have?" he asked. "Are we going to get some documentss on this or is it going to continue to be a mystery?"

Councilmember Jim Vreeland reminded the audience that even with this increase, a ratepayer at the lowest volume threshhold for garbage service--a 20 gallon cart--is paying nearly $10 less a month than they were under Pacifica's previous service provider, Coastside Scavanger Company of Pacifica, several years ago. 

Todd Bray May 25, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Mary Ann, getting documentation to back up statements made by either you, city staff or Chris is basically impossible, on all kinds of topics. This one should be easy. I would suggest to Lionel he contact the California Integrated Waste Management Board and tell them about the trouble he's having getting written confirmation of the terms of the sale. If Picardo did indeed pay the money owed or Recology did there is a document somewhere that will illustrate that... or not.
Thomas H. Clifford May 26, 2011 at 12:05 AM
I for one am more than willing to believe Chris when she said that Mr. Picardo paid the City of Pacifica the $800,000+ that he owed it. Since he was not able to make that payment until Recology became involved I suspect that some form of structured purchase was arranged. Mr. Picardo receives an advance on the purchase price, pays the city what he owes, the City signs off on the transfer of the franchise, Recology pays the balance of the purchase price. Everybody is happy and the records show that Mr. Picardo paid The City. I doubt that Recology Paid anymore then they had to for Coastside Scavenger. The fact that Mr. Picardo owed so much to the City probable gave Recology more leverage with both him and the City, they both wanted a way out of the mess they where in.
Mary Ann Nihart May 26, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Thanks Norm. I appreciate your support. The Coastside Scavenger mess was building for years. I recall even when there was an entirely different council, the coastside fees and the late payments of franchise fees were on the council agenda. I believe at one point there was a court action to compel payment. Lots of finger-pointing among the parties, some legal pursuits and yet still payments were late. I know who I blame, but that is just speculation plus I really do not think it is one person or one circumstance. What I have problems with in general is all the speculation and of course without information people naturally tend to speculate. I can tell you this, prior to Recology, we the citizens were about to lose garbage service all together from Coastside. If they had walked away, we had already explored a back-up plan but it was certainly not a preferred plan. I know of no backroom deals only efforts to fix the problem. Council cannot reveal the contents of closed session or suffer legal consequences, but I can tell you this we made every effort to fix the problem including coming forward with the RFP proposal for a new contract. That process could have cost as much as $200.000 by the time a new contract was signed so the purchase by Recology saved us, the taxpayers, a total of about one million. The differences in cost to the ratepayer has always been of concern. I will dig up the details and get back to you. Right now I have to run. Best, Mary Ann
Mary Ann Nihart May 26, 2011 at 12:24 AM
Thanks Todd, I agree, getting government information is challenging at all levels. In addition to the CA Integrated Waste Management Board, this was all part of the city's public record for the council meeting in which the contract with Recology was voted on. As for the lawsuit with Lionel, he has his version, we have probably an equal number of memos, emails and such from his attorney, and yet we have very different conclusions about what happen. And, I am willing to more on. Sorry I can not be of more help on that one. Anything else I will try to help.
Aware of Vacuity May 26, 2011 at 01:03 AM
Thomas, I have to believe you're correct. You're description of what went down dovetails with Mary Ann's summation that the deal with Recology saved the cost of the RFP and they got the amount Louie Picardo owed, totaling about $1,000,000. The money fronted to Louie P. was not a "gift." They had to get that money back by drawing up a favorable contract that allowed them to recover that expense...just business. They are not a charity. At this point, I'm not sure where Lionel wants to go with this. Recology is not going to pick up our garbage at a loss. Is their profit margin too high?.....I guess that's what an INDEPENDENT audit would determine. The City of Pacifica would have to pay for this and would it in the end show something different than Recology's audit? If it showed the same results, I'm sure all the chronic naysayers on The Patch would try to skewer The Council for wasting all that money too.


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