Recology wants to keep the contract and last month agreed to continue the service for a 120-day period with no rate increase, giving County Commissioners time to decide to try to renegotiate a new contract or find some other solid waste hauler.
Commissioners set up a five-person sub-committee to explore the possibilities on both side of the question. Committee members are Dr. Adam Katschke, Administrative assistant Denise Brown, Commissioner Paul Mathews, County Treasurer Shawn Frehner and District Attorney Daniel Hooge.
There are two contracts with Recology, Hooge explained, one for solid waste collection, which expired in October, and another one, a 49-year lease at Crestline Landfill, that extends until 2055.
The committee held another meeting Nov. 17 at the Courthouse in Pioche and after a lengthy session, decided to recommend to the Board of County Commissioners to declare Recology in breach of contract for the solid waste collection contract and seek Requests For Proposal from other possibly interested solid waste companies.
The decision to declare a breach of contract comes from when the contract with Recology was first put in place in 2004. In a separate interview, former County Commission chair Ronda Hornbeck said, the company, called Crestline at the time, told the Board in 2004 that if the County signed the contract with them immediately, then it would be a done deal; Crestline would be able to get another contract with the City of Los Angeles to haul solid waste by rail to Lincoln County and dump it at the Crestline landfill.
In a short time, it was promised, the contract with the City of Los Angeles would bring down the cost of garbage service to Lincoln County residents to almost zero.
However, the contract with Los Angeles never materialized and the costs to local citizens has only gone up. Recology has openly admitted in recent statements to Commissioners the promised contract with Los Angeles is not going to happen.
Commissioner Paul Mathew said current negotiations with Recology are far apart, with the company asking $700,000 a year for a new contract. He did not say if Recology would also be asking for an annual six percent increase as they do now. The County gives only three percent increase.
Recology admits they are losing money on the garbage collection service, but are making money on the landfill operations where they charge $98 a ton.
Frehner said $700,000 would up the average residential bill for garbage collection to about $500 per year. Current rate is $200. Commercial rates would also increase.
“The citizens of our county cannot tolerate a huge cost,” Mathews said. “It’s our obligation as government to step in and try to figure out the alternative.”
Since Recology hasn’t done what it said it would do in 2004 Mathews said, “Now the whole discussion changes, and up till now is has felt a little one sided. I think the status quo is shot,” and Hooge agreed.
Mathews also suggested the committee also hire a consulting lawyer who specializes in landfill issues. “There will be a lot of details we as a committee will not understand, and it might get away from us.”
The committee moved to make these recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners for their input and action.