Is VRSD Contract a Wise Choice for Oxnard Residents?

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By Ventura County Taxpayers Association


City Council Agenda 9/24

The City of Oxnard and Ventura Regional Sanitation District appear to be on the verge of executing a long term contract which would result in Oxnard sending more of it’s solid waste to the Toland Road landfill operated by VRSD.

Tonight’s Oxnard City Council meeting includes a consent agenda item for the $62 million dollar seven year contract between Oxnard and two landfills, that will be approved with no discussion or public comments.

The Ventura County Taxpayers Association does not see any benefit of this new contract, and we urge the VRSD board and the Oxnard City Council to exercise caution, ask questions and ensure they are making a decision in the best interest of their constituents.

Over the last several weeks we’ve asked many questions yet every answer we’ve received has just raised more questions.  Here’s a brief summary.  First from the VRSD side.

VRSD has been operating the Toland Road Landfill at a loss for years and they forecast continued losses for the next five years.  During this period, they have been covering shortfalls in revenue by dipping into reserves.  Early this year the board voted to increase rates 10% for solid waste haulers delivering to Toland, yet losses were still expected to reach $1.2 million a year.

Some months later someone had a ‘better’ idea.  Toland should cancel the rate increase and instead approve an 8% reduction in rates so it could be more competitive and attract more tonnage, bringing the daily volume up to the maximum allowed under the operating permit.

We do not see any operating efficiencies that might make this a good idea.  Reducing prices without addressing the high cost of operations could make matters worse.  Normally increasing volume would lead to higher operating costs but we don’t see where that has been addressed.

But there might be a bigger problem.  We discovered an alarming discrepancy in what Toland says it is processing and what is reported to the state. Briefly Toland says it is operating at 75% capacity yet state reporting records filed with Cal-Recycle show Toland is operating at 88% of capacity.

If accurate that raises the question of how many tons it could actually receive from Oxnard without going over capacity and having to turn away loads.

When we look at the Oxnard side of this proposed agreement we again wonder why the city wants to do this.

Oxnard appears to have several choices.  First, it could continue the current contract which calls for sending 82% of solid waste to the landfill in Simi Valley and the 18% remainder to Toland landfill.

Second, it can go with the VRSD proposal and send 52% of its waste to Simi Valley and 48% to Toland. It’s important to note that this provides no savings to Oxnard versus the old contract and incidentally costs the County $200,000 a year in lost fee revenue from the Simi Valley landfill.

The risk with the VRSD proposal is, according to Cal-Recycle records, Toland may only be able to take half the additional tonnage they are requesting from Oxnard.  What happens then?

A third option proposed by the Simi Valley landfill proposal is simple.  Send 100% of solid waste to Simi Valley and save Oxnard rate payers up to $400,000 a year and the County of Ventura could expect to receive another $120,000 in fee revenue, over what they now collect.

So why does Oxnard want to send more solid waste to Toland?

We’ve asked many questions of VRSD management.  We have not spoken to Oxnard officials, yet we do not see how this agreement benefits either entity.  We also want to point out what VRSD directors must know, they are running a high cost operation at the landfill and that reserves will have to be replenished.

For VRSD one final question is obvious.  Why not put politics aside and sell or give the Toland landfill to someone who can operate it profitably before taxpayers are on the hook for a large bailout?

For Oxnard, VCTA believes there are too many discrepancies, questions and fiscal implications which have not been addressed to proceed to a vote.  We hope the Oxnard City Council would take the item off the consent agenda and defer any action until there is full disclosure and an opportunity for open public discussion.

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