In a move to further certify its own right to provide trash hauling services, Golden Hills Community Services District will move to control how rates are set within its borders.
Director Ed Kennedy announced that an ordinance will be drafted following a letter received from Kern County regarding Benz Sanitation's continued operation in Golden Hills.
The July 21 letter, addressed to the district's general counsel, Ernest Conant, concerned whether Benz Sanitation could charge different rates for service in Golden Hills.
According to the letter from Kern County Deputy County Counsel Devin Brown, the county has no authority to set rates within Golden Hills following a 2013 ruling by the Kern County Local Area Formation Commission affirming the district's authority to handle its own waste hauling services.
"The County has no authority to set rates for Benz within the GHCSD," Brown wrote in his letter. Effectively, Benz could set its own rates if it wished.
When Golden Hills asserted its authority following a contentious battle with Benz Sanitation, it issued a five-year termination notice to the Tehachapi solid waste hauler. In November 2013, the board approved a new contract with Bakersfield-based hauler J. Torres Co, and later finalized in April of this year.
"Benz has provided satisfactory service within our community for a long time, and we were assuming he was operating under the county franchise agreement," Kennedy said at a Aug. 21 board meeting.
Benz Sanitation serves as the local hauler for the Tehachapi area, as well as in unincorporated parts of the county. However, with the recent letter, Kennedy said the district must address the matter of setting rates within its own borders.
"To have a hauler operate within Golden Hills without an agreement is in essence untenable," said Kennedy.
The proposed ordinance will address the matter.
"It is intended as part of that ordinance that anyone operating within Golden Hills collecting refuse or solid waste must have an agreement with Golden Hills," Kennedy said.
The language of the draft ordinance doesn't prevent Benz Sanitation from operating inside Golden Hills. However, it places limits on the business the service hauler can conduct.
It also prevents other haulers from muscling in without having a past or current franchise agreement with Golden Hills. A franchise would last no more than 20 years, and could only continue with a new agreement.
An agreement between Golden Hills and Benz must be secured to provide continued service, but only to customers Benz already has for the rest of its five-year notice, which was given in January 2013. Benz would not be able to advertise for, solicit or otherwise sign up new customers for hauling services.
The ordinance places this requirement on all "continuing haulers" (Benz in this case) who might have their franchise agreement terminated by Golden Hills CSD.
The draft ordinance also requires solid waste collection in Golden Hills must be done in separate containers for recyclables and solid waste. Recyclables would need to be transported to a district-approved processing facility, and a report generated regarding volume provided to the district periodically.
The ordinance encourages customers, or "generators," to recycle but would not enforce separation of recyclables.
The proposed ordinance does not state what franchise fee the district would require of Benz to continue to operate within the district. Nor does it state the maximum fees that Benz would be allowed to charge customers.
The board intends to introduce the ordinance for a first read at a special meeting on Sept. 3, with tentative plans for a vote at its regular Sept. 18 board meeting.