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    Thousand Oaks City Council postpones decision on exclusive franchise solid waste agreements

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    By Michael Hernandez


    THOUSAND OAKS—The City Council decided on Tuesday to adopt a suggestion by City Manager Andrew Powers to postpone a decision until January 28th on whether to approve exclusive franchise solid waste agreements worth $20 million per year for USA Waste of California, Inc. (a Waste Management Company) and Newbury Disposal Company (E.J. Harrison and Sons, Inc.) or to go out to bid for additional proposals. 

    Both solid waste haulers have served residents of Thousand Oaks for many years  and provide residential services to two distinct geographic areas of Thousand Oaks with commercial services provided only by Waste Management.  The two solid waste haulers provide services that are used by almost every city in Ventura County except for Oxnard and Santa Paula.

    The original agreement with both companies includes a clause that allowed for an automatic extension from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2024 if notice was not provided by June 30, 2018 by either party to the agreement.   On June 5, 2018, the City Council approved amendments for a one-year automatic extension and on May 21, 2019 the City Council approved a second amendment extending the notice date to Dec. 31 of this year.

    At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Pro-Tem Claudia Bill-de la Pena argued for a competitive bid process to try to bring down the cost of services while Councilmember Rob McCoy defended the waste haulers for their long-time service and commitment to the city and said “if it is not broken, there is no need to fix it.”

    At issue are commercial rates which will go up significantly in future years due to several laws passed by California lawmakers since 2011.  Since the existing hauler agreements went into effect, Sacramento has passed several laws that significantly affect the processing of trash, recyclables, and organic waste:

    • AB 341 (passed in 2011) requires all businesses to implement an organic waste recycling program with a 75 percent recycling rate goal by 2020;
    • AB 1826 (passed in 2014) requires an organic waste recycling program to divert from the landfill organic waster from businesses and multi-family dwellings;
    • SB 1383 (passed in 2016) requires that organics be kept out of landfills and requires a 50 percent reduction in organic waste disposal by 2020 and 75 percent by 2025. Beginning in 2022, organic services will be required for all residents and businesses as well as an edible food recovery program, with required monitor compliance and enforcement.

    Currently, residential rates in Thousand Oaks are $33.52 per month and are slated to go up by 26 cents per month to $33.78 in 2020 for a three-bin basic service contract.   Residential rates would see a 13 percent increase between 2020 and 2025 based on an estimated three percent cost price increase. 

    Commercial service prices are currently $168 per month for a three-yard, one-time/ week pickup and will go up by $5.05 per month to $173.05 per month in 2020.  A recycling bin (three-yard, one-time/month) costs $52.92 and is slated to go up by $1.59 to $54.51 per month in 2020.  Commercial trash rates would be held fixed for the first two years and then subject to annual CPI adjustments.  Commercial recycling rates would adjust from 31.5 percent of the trash rate currently to 60 percent of the trash rate by 2025 which would approximately double rates between 2020 and 2025.

    Two cannabis testing facilities and two facility operators permitted

    The City Council approved an operations agreement with Atlas Quality Assurance testing laboratory on 3563 Old Conejo Road (near the intersection of Old Conejo Road and Reino Road) and left open the possibility of another cannabis testing laboratory opening in the city after an application process was opened on June 3 and closed on July 10.  Atlas QAL received the highest ranking of the three applications.

    The City Council has permitted two medical cannabis dispensaries in Thousand Oaks:  Legendary Organics (1339 Lawrence Drive) and Leaf Dispensary (2360 Townsgate Road) despite public comments made Tuesday by James Goldstein, administrator of Passageway School  (for special needs students; the school is located at 1153 Lawrence Drive), by community resident Mark Innocenzi and by Marjan Behzadi who also wrote a letter given to council members contesting the city’s assertion that the facility was within 600 feet of any sensitive uses (which includes schools).  The Leaf Dispensary will be located near a church.

    “Why is a dispensary opening so close to our school,” said Goldstein.  “The problem we have is to get kids off marijuana and to keep them clean.  This is not an appropriate location.   We have marijuana use among teens and now we will have a dispensary down the street.  This won’t look good to parents nor the district.  Please help us out.”

    “This facility would be located in close proximity to…hundreds of children and MB2 Raceway (1475 Lawrence Drive, a go-kart racing track),” said Behzadi.   “I strongly oppose this facility opening.”

    Legendary Organics original location was 2712 Conejo Center Drive.  The original location that Leaf dispensary had considered was 2400 Willow Lane but was forced to change locations because of concerns based on property ownership and bank requirements for re-financing.  The city staff is yet to approve the 2360 Townsgate Road location.

     The City Council also approved four amendments to the Thousand Oaks Municipal Code:

    • The first amendment increased the permitted number of cannabis retailers (M-license operators) from one to two;
    • The second amendment gives both dispensaries delivery permits to customers with the City boundaries (not just those outside the city);
    • The third amendment expands hours of operation from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (seven days a week) to between 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (seven days a week);
    • The fourth amendment removes the 24-hour appointment requirement.

    Other City Council business included:

    • The Conejo Creek Southwest Park Development Permit was approved for the construction of the city’s newest park on 13-acres of undeveloped land west of the 23 freeway and Combes Avenue on five parcels of land. Thousand Oaks has 55 parks and 63 facilities that provide what Mayor Al Adam called “great recreation for its residents.”
    • Seventeen of 61 graduates from two classes of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) were honored.
      Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) graduates, Photo Michael Hernandez


    • Seven of the Thousand Oaks Kiwanis K-Kids Club (Weathersfield Elementary) led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and shared about giving 1,200 pounds of food as well as a gift of $427 made to the American Red Cross for hurricane disaster relief.
      Thousand Oaks Kiwanis K-Kids Club (Weathersfield Elementary) , Photo Michael Hernandez


    • Six community residents gave public comments on the dangers of 5G and challenged City Staff and City Council to look at recent court rulings and FCC regulations concerning how local municipalities could regulate 5G cell towers.

    Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He has worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].

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    William Hicks
    William Hicks
    2 years ago

    I agree with Rob McCoy with one addendum….The waste haulers have given preferential cost treatment to cities that continue their contract. Before we go to a bid process, we need to know if the current contractors will continue that preferential cost benefit or raise the cost if put to open bid.

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