Jan 20 2017

Opinion: Piedmont Garbage Rates Are Too High Compared to Other Cities

The following letter was sent to the Piedmont City Council on January 15, 2017.

Mayor Jeff Wieler
Piedmont City Council
c/o John Tulloch, City of Piedmont

January 17 Agenda Item 7: R3 Presentation on Waste Collection Services

Dear Mayor Wieler and Council,

The current Piedmont 32 gallon service which includes 1 each refuse, green waste and recycling is $54.80 for curbside service. The equivalent 32 gallon Oakland service is $36.82. In Tiburon this same service is $39.02 for flat areas and $46.47 for hill areas; in Mill Valley the rates are $41.61 and $47.73.  Small affluent bedroom community San Marino with its excellent school system has been used as a comparable City to Piedmont. Their rate is $42.05 monthly and is backyard service only, plus 2 cans each for refuse, recycling and green waste (source: 10/26/2016 Irene in S.M. City Clerk’s Office).

Piedmont’s rate is then 15% more than the similar topography hills of Mill Valley to 49% higher than surrounding Oakland.

The Piedmont service includes unlimited green waste and recycling, others may not. Piedmont has 4 bulk pickups annually. Tiburon and Mill Valley are serviced by Mill Valley Refuse Service (“MVRS”) which serves nine Marin County cities. No City MVRS serves has less than two annual bulk pickups. There may be other inconsistencies in the services provided; comparing Waste Collection contracts is sometimes like comparing rotted apples to moldy oranges.

While the current package of services is appropriate for Piedmont, perhaps limiting to two annual bulky pickups from four will keep costs down. Regardless, the current Piedmont contract was neither researched nor negotiated as vigorously as the renewal contract is apparently being done. Piedmont is no longer an “Easy Mark” by service providers; the mainline sewer work and excellent bids received by J. Howard Engineering being one example.
The current Republic Services contract excludes Ivy. In Ivy infested Piedmont it is difficult to understand how this was allowed.

For Seniors 70+, disabled and blind all nine cities served by MVRS have a curbside rate for backyard pickup. Normally backyard pickup by MVRS is charged either an additional $5 monthly for “on premise” service or $15 monthly for “on premise plus.” Seniors receive no financial consideration in Piedmont by City Hall or the School Board. The MVRS model of backyard service at curbside rate for seniors & disabled should be incorporated into the new contract RFP.

I propose homes in Zone E pay a slightly higher overall fee. All lots are over 20,000 square feet and generate larger and more frequent green waste pickup; additionally all backyard services in Zone E require more work by the refuse company. This Zone E slight increase would easily cover any small subsidy for a reduced backyard service fee for seniors, blind and disabled.


Rick Schiller

Cc: Paul Benoit

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

3 Responses to “Opinion: Piedmont Garbage Rates Are Too High Compared to Other Cities”

  1. Concerning the Senior age 70/Disabled accommodation of backyard service at curbside rates, the City’s consultant when asked how common this is by Councilman Rood, responded the accommodation is “standard.” Mr Schultz, the R3 principal consultant, elaborated that the backyard service at curbside rates for Seniors/Disabled is even provided in some situations where a City might otherwise not offer a general backyard service option.

    Thanks to City Staff for clarifying that Ivy cannot be excluded per PCC Sec. 9.2.26.

    I urge residents to examine the findings of the City survey to date at: http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/publicworks/docs/planning/2017-01-20_workshop_slides.pdf. Some highlights are that 55% of residents use curbside service and 67% favor this as the default. Of those surveyed, 650+ to date, 45% use backyard service and 46% of those surveyed would pay twice the current rate for backyard service. I believe the new contract should still offer backyard service as an option, though will have to be more costly than the current $5 monthly cost differential.

  2. Rick, thanks for those comps. Any thoughts of how San Marino does it? A back yard service only city with cheaper rates than Piedmont? And what’s the difference the Mill Valley on premise and on premise plus options? Maybe you should sub-con for R3, the city’s consultant on the new contract.

  3. I discussed the San Marino cost discrepancy with Garth Schultz, the City’s consultant in preparing the new Waste Collection RFP. Landfill space is much more available in Southern California so evidently the back end service, the disposal, is less costly. And a somewhat larger commercial use exists in San Marino which tends to keep overall cost down. However San Marino’s 64 gallon backyard service at $42 is still considerably less than Piedmont’s 32 gallon backyard service at $60. I cannot explain it all.

    Mill Valley Refuse Service (“MVRS”), serving nine cities, has an “on premise” pickup if the cans are visible and within 25 feet of the curb; that extra monthly fee is +$5 for the basic 32 gallon service. MVRS’s “on premise plus” is for backyard pickup for out of sight cans and further than 25 ft. Given the Piedmont City code that requires cans to be out of sight and our many large yards, only an “on premise plus” type of service is appropriate, though I suspect to keep the overall contract reasonable this backyard option will have to be charged at a significantly greater differential to curbside than our current $5.

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