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Tuesday, Nov 26 2013 06:00 AM

Golden Hills approves new trash hauler

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From left, Golden Hills Community Service District Board members Larry Barret and Bud Sargent listen to public commentary regarding the board's resolution to enter into an agreement with J Torres Company of Bakersfield to provide a alternative trash hauling service within the district. Benz Sanitation is currently under contract with Kern County to provide trash hauling services in the area.

A near-capacity crowd showed up for the Thursday, Nov. 21, Golden Hills Community Service District Board meeting to learn the results of the district's much-debated RFP process in order to find an alternate trash hauler. The board approved an agreement with Bakersfield-based, J Torres Company. Gregory D. Cook / Tehachapi News

Mike Ferola, program manager for J. Torres Company Inc. address questions asked by attendees of the Golden Hills Community Service District's board meeting Thursday, Nov. 21, in the GHCSD board room. The GHCSD approved a resolution to enter an agreement with the J. Torres Company to provide an alternate trash collection service within the service district. Gregory D. Cook / Tehachapi News

Buddy Cummings makes an impassioned plea to the Golden Hills Community Service District Board to reconsider its much-debated decision to move forward with contracting an additional trash hauler for the district Thursday, Nov. 20 during a board meeting in the GHCSD board room.

Among those in attendance at the Thursday, Nov. 21 Golden Hills Community Service District Board meeting were Virginia Staabs, (center front) who is spearheading the effort to recall the board members and Paul Benz Sr. (center rear) and Paul J. Benz (standing) of Benz Sanitation.

Following a bidding process that was heavily clouded by controversy, Bakersfield-based trash hauler J. Torres Company was awarded a memorandum of understanding by board members of the Golden Hills Community Services District.

The unanimous decision followed comments from ten different community members at the board's regular meeting on Thursday.

Although the Kern County Local Agency Formation Commission may reconsider whether the CSD has powers over solid waste management, the district is currently able to exercise those powers. But since LAFCo's decision remains unsure, the contract between Golden Hills and J. Torres is contingent upon a favorable ruling by the county agency.

Joe Torres Jr., and Mike Ferola represented the J. Torres company. Torres said he was unaware of the LAFCo proceedings and community controversy until the company began the interview process with Golden Hills and the consulting company the district hired, HF&H Consultants of Walnut Creek, three or four weeks ago.

Torres said he and other company officials considered pulling out their bid.

"But we said, let's see what happens," Torres said. "For us, we're a small company and we're always looking for opportunities. When we're trying to beat the big kids on the block, we have to grind down our numbers to see if we can do it."

The other bidder who was considered was Waste Management, Inc., but the smaller company snagged the recommendation from HF&H because of its lower prices, according to the consulting firm's vice president, Rob Hilton.

The Bay Area firm was engaged by the district at a fee estimated at $100,000 to conduct the request for proposals process after GHCSD let Benz Sanitation of Tehachapi know in June that it was asserting its power to contract for waste management services.

Benz has a contract with Kern County to provide trash collection in the area and Golden Hills directors indicated they believed the could get a lower rate for residents.

According to information presented by HF&H, Golden Hills customers currently pay $24.26 per month; J. Torres offered to handle trash collection for $19.43 per month while Waste Management put in a bid for collection at the rate of $23 per month.

The agreement with J. Torres will include paying a five percent franchise fee to Golden Hills. The company will also be expected to reimburse the district for $100,000 in expenses to develop the contract and RFP process.

Per Hilton's presentation, J. Torres will have four years to meet the minimum customer threshold requirement, and is expected to begin service in April 2014.

Benz will continue to serve Golden Hills residents until the expiration of the five-year notice issued by GHCSD. Residents who wish to switch to J. Torres must "opt-in" to the program.

LAFCo will hold a public hearing at the Board of Supervisors chambers, 1115 Truxtun Ave., Bakersfield, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 5 p.m., to review arguments on whether to revoke the commission's March 27 decision to affirm GHCSD's power to manage solid waste in the district.

A recall effort against the five Golden Hills directors is also underway and is spearheaded by resident Virginia Staabs. Staabs and other residents are currently in the process of collecting signatures in support of the recall.

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