County delays start of solid waste services until the beginning of July

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Due to a recent contract extension with Waste Management for county-wide solid waste services, local franchise haulers got a little breathing room before they have to stop hauling trash in the county.

At the March 13 meeting, Valencia County Manager Bruce Swingle told the commissioners that the contract start date for Waste Management needed to be extended beyond the original April 1 start date to the end of June.

"Due to a (request for proposal) protest and other remedies available to the unsuccessful respondent, the original start date … needs to be extended," Swingle said.

The franchise agreements for the four haulers allowed to haul residential trash within the county were due to end April 1, and Waste Management, based in Rio Rancho, was due to take over operations.

The county commissioners awarded an eight-year contract to Waste Management at their Dec. 19 meeting.

New Mexico Disposal, the only other qualified respondent, protested the contract award but the county denied the protest.

Then on Feb. 14, NMD, through its attorney, Amavalise Jaramillo, filed a notice of appeal in district court.

"But Waste Management is not going to be ready to start next month," Swingle said. "The issue is, we could go several months where resident have no (trash) service in the unincorporated areas. To remedy, this staff worked with Waste Management to develop a resolution to push back the start date to July 1."

Commission Chairman Charles Eaton asked if there was a "stop order" issued after the protest from NMD.

"Did this not stop the whole contract and time line," Eaton asked.

Swingle said the term "stop order" was a rather subjective one.

"Waste Management has an executed contract. There is no mechanism to stop and start," he said. "They worked with us in good faith in light of the situation. To extend this to July 1 is risky in my opinion."

Eaton asked, "If we don't extend the contract, we cannot extend the franchise hauler agreements?"

Swingle said that was correct, since the contract gives Waste Management exclusive hauler rights in the unincorporated parts of the county.

"All other haulers were to stop as of April 1," Swingle said. "This extension allows them to continue hauling through July 1."

Commissioner Alicia Aguilar asked what would happen if the commission took no action.

"We don't have haulers, but we are not in a contract with Waste Management," Aguilar said. "What do we have?"

"In the ball park of 16,000 residents would not have solid waste services," Swingle responded.

That announcement was met with loud indignation from the crowd and cries of "Not true."

Commissioner Mary Andersen made a motion to approve the amendment and Commissioner Lawrence Romero seconded.

Commissioners Donald Holliday, Andersen and Romero voted in favor, while Eaton cast the only no vote. Aguilar abstained from the vote.

When asked why she abstained from voting, during phone interview with the Valencia County News-Bulletin after the meeting, Aguilar said she was still concerned that the county was mandating one hauler.

"We have small businesses operating, people happy are with that, people employed in this county who are now going to lose their jobs," Aguilar said. "I have received numerous calls; individuals didn't feel they had a say-so in this. This is a poor county and that didn't seem to be addressed."

Two county residents took the commissioners to task over their decision during public comments

Saying she represented people in her Las Maravillas neighborhood, Hazel Poissot said she had "ill will towards this project with Waste Management and the county commissioners. People feel being deprived of choice.

"They feel money and jobs are being taken from Valencia County and given to Waste Management in Albuquerque."

Poissot said she was on a fixed income and didn't personally use Waste Management.

"This is a problem for me and a problem for a lot of others out there on fixed incomes," she said. "This is going to cause a hardship on a lot of people. There are other choices — use a local disposal company or take it to our own to dump.

"You say we have that now, but people don't do it. You are going to have those problems anyway.

"We are having Waste Management shoved down our throat. Choose someone or do your own is much more acceptable to people in my neighborhood."

Jai Walton, who also lives in Las Maravillas, said she was extremely upset with the previous commission's decision to insert itself into her life and "cause me financial hardship, take away my choice."

Walton said she is diligent with her budget and works hard to live within her means.

"These are difficult economic times. $2, $5, $10 effects my household greatly," Walton said. "I like being able to go to the dollar store for gum and only pay a dollar.

"Your choice to use large company like Waste Managment is an atrocity to the people of this county. This effects your responsibility to keep business in Valencia County.

"It is your responsibility, it is your due diligence to protect us, to protect our businesses. I don't think anything I say will change your mind. But when you do this, know that you hurt us."

Saying she would have to pay the same amount monthly, no matter how much trash she generated, Walton made the point that she can put her trash in the trunk of her car once a month and take it to the dump for $5.

"That allows me full control of my income and budget," she said. "I am limited in what I have to work with in my budget. And you have limited my ability as to whether I keep my home or not. And yes, $18 or $24 makes a difference."


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.