Nov 10 2015

City Council Reviewed Waste Services and Allocated $500,000 Lawsuit Settlement

Waste services, Finance Director search, and a $500,000 year-end transfer from undergrounding lawsuit settlement – 

by Piedmont High School student Christopher Baringer

Cleaning Up Piedmont

Piedmont’s City Council convened in one of their biweekly meetings on November 2nd, 2015 in the Council Chambers to discuss an audit that was performed by the Consulting Group R3 on Richmond Sanitary Services, also known as Republic Services, Piedmont’s waste collection provider. Also, the Council discussed the fact that the current Finance Director will be retiring from his position and that they need to find both an interim Finance Director and to utilize a recruiting firm to find a permanent replacement. Lastly, the Council spoke about the year-end transfers of the most recent fiscal year.

The audit for which the City Council hired R3 Consulting was to determine and address the areas of noncompliance in an agreement with Richmond Sanitary Services. Members of R3 spoke at the Council meeting and reported that the areas of noncompliance were insignificant. Robert McBain of the Council asked why those insignificant areas had not been addressed, and pointed out that many Piedmont citizens have issued complaints that their recycling and green waste are mixed into the same container.

William Shoan of R3 clarified that while it was true that green waste and recyclables were put into the same container, he noted that this rarely happened, and the green waste and recyclables rarely ended up in the same container in the end. The fact that this is a rare occurrence is because, Shoan stated, this only happened in “Backyard Accounts”, which is when the resident pays an extra fee to have the garbage workers fetch the refuse as opposed to the resident bringing their bins to the street. The garbage workers, in order to more efficiently transport the material, will often pour the green waste into the bottom of a larger carrying bin, and then fill the rest of the carrying bin with recyclables. Then, when they reach the truck, the workers then pour the top, recyclable part of the carrying bin into the recyclable section and then the rest into the compost section. Shoan recommended that, even though there was a very low rate of contamination between refuse categories, the workers add a layer of burlap to more effectively separate the green waste and the recycling.

Tim Rood of the Council then mentioned that over 40% of what is in black bins in Piedmont is actually green waste, to which Shoan pointed out that that comes down to the diligence of the citizens and that mandatory separation of green waste and trash should be considered. Mayor Margaret Fujioka noted that part of the contract between the City of Piedmont and Richmond Sanitary Services included Richmond Sanitary organizing community outreach events to help educate people in the best way to handle their refuse, which was not something that is currently being done.

I spoke to Aaron Salloway, a Piedmont resident, about how he felt about Republic Services and why he was attending the City Council meeting. He told me he was there because he knew Piedmont is such a small city and the Council has a lack of competitive advantage when negotiating with sanitary service providers, essentially making it a seller’s market. When I asked what he planned to do to help the cause of improving waste management in Piedmont, he said that he would wait to “see R3’s reports and see how the residents are going to react to the community outreach events”.

The next thing addressed was the need for a new Finance Director. For hiring a Finance Director, the Council needs to hire a recruiting firm, and will be interviewing the possible options for recruiting firms in the near future. As the current Finance Director is also handling parts of Human Resources, his departure will also leave a position to be filled in Human Resources. Rather than hiring another person to fill that position, the Council decided that it would be best to expand the duties of the current Administrative Services Technician to handle the Human Resources aspect of the current Finance Director.

Finally, the Council addressed this fiscal year’s year-end transfers, specifically a $500,000 sum that was gained from a civil settlement with an undergrounding engineer involved in a private utility district. Paul Benoit, City Administrator, recommended that the settlement sum should be allocated to Piedmont’s Facilities Maintenance Fund, which the Council approved.

One Response to “City Council Reviewed Waste Services and Allocated $500,000 Lawsuit Settlement”

  1. The co-mixing issue is a reuslt of how R3 does backard service. Separate trips to fetch the recycling and then the green waste could be done however that would drastically increase the backyard service rate. The real issue becomes cross-contamination of recyclables and compostables – how efficiently does this burlap solution really work? The city would have to survey the haulers on service day to determine this. The 40% contamination of the trash is from poor separation by Piedmonters. R3 could help by giving better guidance on what that organic fraction in the trash is – food vs. yard waste, food containers or spoiled food, etc.

    Perhaps the new Sustainability intern can do this survey for the city – a hauler ride-along, so to speak.

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