Belmont may dump garbage contract

The city is considering trashing its waste collector and may even decide to pick up its own garbage.

Belmont’s City Council hired a consultant to look into how much it would cost for the city to do its own garbage and recycling collection. The consultant reported it may only cost 7 percent more to invest in its own trash collection than the $4.1 million it pays Allied Waste to do it.

That price would include hiring 18.5 new employees, buying 21 garbage trucks and purchasing 25,000 square feet of land, according to Belmont’s Public Works Director Ray Davis.

The city is also considering a second option: breaking off from the rest of the region and putting its trash collection out to bid separately, to see if it can get a better deal, he said. The council will consider this option at a meeting tonight.

Belmont is one of 10 cities in San Mateo County that are members of the South Bayside Waste Management Authority, which has negotiated the details of the contract with Allied.

The situation became strained in recent years after the City Council began fielding complaints about Allied Waste’s service and became “disenchanted” with the situation, Davis said. Among complaints he mentioned were that the trash collection service was making a mess on the street and not putting trash bins back.

Because the contract expires in 2010, and the regional waste management authority is putting the trash collection contract back out to bid this year, Belmont has begun looking at other options.

Allied Waste General Manager Evan Boyd acknowledged that Belmont has had complaints about service, but said those complaints have tailed off in the last year as the company has improved its service. He said the company’s call center has been enhanced and its field service is now far above industry standards.

Such claims don’t impress Belmont Vice Mayor Bill Dickenson, who said he doesn’t approve of the regional waste management authority — a nonelected body that he claims has far too little oversight — deciding contract details for the city.

Councilmember Coralin Feierbach said she worries bringing the trash collection service back in-house would be much more expensive than predicted. But she’s interested in seeing what the results are from putting the service out to bid on its own.

kworth@examiner.com

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