FORT BRAGG, 1/28/21 — A representative of Waste Management (WM), publicly asked the Fort Bragg City Council Wednesday night not to switch to a new provider and instead accept a one-year contract extension on trash collection services without a rate increase. The Council took no action and instead postponed the meeting until Monday due to a staff emergency.
Waste Management’s Brad Cea said the company was baffled when they heard about a city proposal to dump WM in favor of Ukiah-based trash services provider C&S Waste Solutions. The council also got an earful from county residents who live about 3 miles south of the city, who said they believe a as-yet secret site that C&S Waste Solutions has a lease option on is actually the old Louisiana Pacific Lumber mill at the end of Gibney Lane.
In short, the Fort Bragg City Council had one of its briefest and most contentious meetings in recent months on Wednesday afternoon. (See our previous coverage here)
The remainder of the meeting was postponed until Monday afternoon after Mayor Bernie Norvell announced that the staff member who was going to give the report on the matter (City Manager Tabatha Miller) could not make the meeting due to a personal emergency. Norvell said later that everything should be fine as to the emergency. The council did take public input from the audience for twenty-two minutes, then Mayor Norvell recessed the meeting until Monday, with the time of that meeting still not finalized.
The matter drew strong opposition from half a dozen people, some of whom live in the Gibney Lane area.
“This neighborhood will never allow this to go through. There are hundreds of people who live in that area,” said Eric Gutnick.
“There will be demonstrations. There will be suits and the city will be part of it because you haven’t done your homework. I think it’s completely inappropriate that C&S is demanding an answer in 30 days. This is potentially being railroaded through. It’s the wrong thing to consider at this time. Most people don’t even know about it,” said Gutnick.
The location, landlord and rent to be paid are all redacted in the staff report for the meeting. The public documents only reveal that it is an industrial site that includes at least 11 acres and is located somewhere south of Fort Bragg, outside the city limits.
“Assuming we are guessing correctly, perhaps you can confirm or deny…You are deciding the fate for people who live outside the city. We don’t vote for city council. It seems way off base,” said Gutnick.
After hearing opposition from several speakers who attended the virtual meeting through Zoom, Councilmember Lindy Peters said the location is truly secret at this point.
“The City Council members do not know the location of the property. Like many who have checked in here, we have heard rumors,” Peters said.
Peters said C&S had found the property where they have the lease option all on their own.
“For reasons known to them they don’t want to divulge where it is right now,” said Peters.
“That’s correct,” said Mayor Norvell.
The secrecy of the location upset several people who said the location should be made public before being considered.
“As a resident of the Gibney Lane area, we are all under the assumption that’s where the transfer station would be located,” said Rick Davis.
“I’m all shocked to find out this is all coming about…That a lease has already been signed. We are already being mitigated for environmental damage that the mill brought out here,” he said.
“So to bring a transfer station in here with all that accompanies it, with traffic up and down our small road is unbelievable…Why would we be allowing another transfer, another waste facility to be built when we already have that substructure in place?” Davis asked, referring to the Waste Management transfer station on Pudding Creek Road in the city of Fort Bragg. The proposal is for a truck parking facility for now, with no plans for a transfer station.
Cea, of Waste Management, expressed disappointment with the city for not giving the incumbent garbage collector a chance to present its proposal. He attended the meeting by Zoom.
“I’m compelled to say how baffled we were to see the agenda and subsequent report from the city manager. In all our years of providing excellent collection services we have never seen a negotiation where an incumbent provider has not been afforded an opportunity to present a new agreement,” Cea said.
Cea said the company was even more baffled by how the council had given Waste Management a positive review at a meeting on December 14 and said they would draft a letter committing to negotiate with Waste Management. “Only to have that letter altered on Dec. 22 via the consent agenda,” Cea said.
WM was counting on presenting their plan well ahead of the expiration date of the contract, said Cea. But the city has insisted time was running out.
“We are asking the council tonight to put a pause to this new direction. We are proposing to partner with council and staff to amend the contract, provide a one year term without an increase in rates to insure the process of staying or selecting a new provider is transparent, competitive and provides the community with the best service offering. It is in the best interest of the community to have open competition which WM welcomes. If after a year the decision is still the same the new provider will have more time to fully insure minimum disruption,” said Cea. He asked the council not to change providers but grant the one year term. Cea didn’t say why WM had not yet made a presentation of its own plan, when its contract with the city expires in just over five months.
Realtor Paul Clark had heard Waste Management employees were upset by the move and hoped they would speak out.
“This one seems to be something happening without public views and it’s a huge issue. My guess is there will be litigation if this is passed. I suggest this be tabled and more information put out to the community than just the emails,” Clark wrote to the Council
Jenny Shattuck said trash collection for the city should not impact those who don’t.
“The address is redacted but by description looks to be the old LP millsite on Gibney Lane. This neighborhood has already been poisoned once. Why should they bear the brunt of our city trash hauling trucks, noise, debris?,” said Shattuck.
Steve Shamblin, operations manager for Empire Solid Waste (Waste Management subsidiary) said the coast would lose vital services during a quick transition.
“The level of dedication and teamwork at Fort Bragg Disposal is not something you can guarantee with just a contract. If we are doing our jobs right no one outside our team knows what goes into it. That concerns me as a customer and someone who calls Fort Bragg home, that the level of service we have gotten accustomed to would fall off even for a few months.”