The City Council talked trash Tuesday.

Months of negotiations and the hiring of a consultant to assist the city staff paid off as the general terms of a franchise agreement with Waste Management of Orange County were unanimously approved. The city manager and city attorney were directed to fine-tune the agreement and bring a final version to the council by April.

"All things being equal financially, we couldn't have a better partner," Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson said. "They 'get' Laguna. They do what we want them to do and in the 1995 landslide they bent over backwards to help our residents."

City staff recommended approval of the tentative agreement, although rates are higher in Laguna than in some other communities.

Richard Tagore-Erwin, principal of the RC Consulting Group, who participated in the negotiations on behalf of the city, reported to the council that the city's comparatively high cost for trash collection and recycling is due to topography, difficult-to-maneuver-streets, distance from the landfill, relatively high amounts of disposal tonnage and level of service.

Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson said the service in Laguna is impressive, even when compared to other well-run cities.

"We never have to sweep the street after trash is collected," Johnson said. "Trash cans are left in the same place or very nearby after they are emptied — we don't have to walk up and down the street looking for them.

"Overstuffed trash cans are emptied, not left behind, and I notice these in many neighborhoods on trash day. Orders for dumpsters and pick-ups are also promptly handled, and when we request new trash cans, they are delivered promptly and the old one removed."

Waste Management also provides vital services at many community events, including the Patriots Day Parade, Johnson said.

Laguna Canyon resident Ann Quilter cited services provided by the company's Community Relations Manager Michelle Clark in the aftermath of the December 2010 floods when cleaning up was a top priority.

"She begged, borrowed and stole — I don't know what else she did, but the number of bins that were provided pro bono was astounding," Quilter said. "She [would] deliver one and the next day or night or at 4 a.m. it was picked up and an empty one dropped off.

"That really went a huge way to help our folks recover. She even gave everyone her home phone number. They were free to call her day or night and that level of service and commitment to the community, I think, is astounding."

Among the terms and programs requested by the city and agreed to or proposed by Waste Management, according to city officials, are a term length of 10 years; 15% reduction in commercial cart rates; commercial and residential customer rate freeze for two years through July 1, 2015; future commercial and residential rates to be adjusted by 90% of Consumer Price Index and actual disposal costs; lower roll-off rates for permanent accounts by reducing the total tons included in the base rate from seven tons to five tons; reduced temporary/construction and demolition roll-off base rate by eliminating the built-in seven-ton cost factor and moving to straight service cost, plus actual cost for disposal or processing.

Waste Management will divert 50% of Laguna's waste stream from the landfill beginning calendar year 2014 of the new contract and set a diversion goal of 75% by Dec. 31, 2020. Failure to meet recycling goals will be penalized on a sliding scale up to $15,000 a year and/or deemed a material breach of contract.

The company will also provide a half-time Recycling Coordinator dedicated to serving Laguna Beach, pay the city $50,000 annually to support public education efforts and contract assistance, and absorb the current contract of approximately $45,300 per year and associated costs of the Household Hazardous Waste Programs (e-waste, sharps, expired medicines, used oil, batteries, fluorescent tubes, and lamps, etc.) paid by the city, into the new franchise agreement.

Among the other provisions in the terms of the proposed agreement:

•Waste Management will pay the city 25% of revenue from the sale of recyclables for which revenue exceeds $135 per ton.

•Collection of recyclables will be provided in all hard-to-service areas.

•A specific plan will be implemented to comply with the new commercial recycling regulations mandated by Assembly Bill 341, including education, outreach, monitoring and reporting.

•Increased insurance requirements, as well as performance bond, performance standards, and liquidated damages revisions.

The staff and consultant's reports are available on the city's website, lagunabeachcity.net.

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