The eight members of the Local Agency Formation Commission board who were present at the Wednesday, Dec. 4, meeting voted in favor of upholding the board's March 27, 2013, decision to recognize four powers of the Golden Hills Community Services District, including solid waste management.
Opposition to the initial determination sprang from employees and owners of Benz Sanitation — the company under contract with the County of Kern to provide trash hauling services to the Golden Hills community — and Golden Hills residents disgruntled by the process by which the GHCSD began taking over curbside refuse services.
LAFCo Chairman and 2nd District Supervisor Zack Scrivner was the first of the commissioners to voice support of the case made by GHCSD. He acknowledged his ties to both sides of the aisle, but said he was obligated to uphold the law.
“I've got to make the decision on what I think the CSD has the right to do,” Scrivner said. “And it's their decision to go out and contract with whoever they contract with. It's their decision to decide that, look, we want to take curbside pickup...But it's not my job, right here, right now on LAFCo, to tell them that they can't do it. I know that folks on the Benz side would like me to stop this because I have the power to do it, but I just simply do not feel that that is the proper role for me here.”
The chairman explained that although the county contracted with Benz, GHCSD spent its own money, paid its own employees, used its own trucks and coordinated its own waste events.
“How much is enough of a service being provided under these functions [powers] to justify saying that the entire power is active,” Scrivner said, asking LAFCo’s attorney, Tom Schroeder. “As far as I can tell, the law is completely silent on that.”
Schroeder agreed, adding he cannot find in the law where LAFCo can parse out individual services under functions like solid waste management. The attorney also serves as counsel for the City of Tehachapi.
One by one, each of the commissioners expressed agreement with Scrivner, though some more reluctantly than others.
Commissioner David Couch said he anticipated the case to move into litigation, regardless of the vote.
"I think we're going to end up back here anyway," he said prior to the commission's decision.
Commissioner Kim Nixon, who is also on the Tehachapi City Council, appeared to choke back tears as she agreed with Scrivner and recognized she had friends on both sides.
“It breaks my heart to see the Tehachapi Valley split and divided like this,” she said. “Nobody wins when this happens…If I would vote with my heart, I would vote maybe differently than I will vote with knowing what the law is and where I think we are at this point.”
The nearly four-hour meeting concluded with the vote, with several Benz supporters — including the family members — leaving before the gavel fell.
The other powers GHCSD will retain are cemetery, sewer and cultural services.
With the reinstated support of LAFCo behind them, the GHCSD board of directors will continue moving forward with the district's contract with J. Torres Company to provide trash hauling services to community members beginning in April 2014. Residents will have the option to switch to J. Torres, or continue with Benz until 2018 when the contract terminates.
Meanwhile, Golden Hills resident and activist Adrian Maaskant told the Tehachapi News after the LAFCo hearing that he planned to withdraw his Grand Jury complaint against the Board of Supervisors and LAFCo, and later sent an email to confirm.
“This decision by LAFCo renders moot my complaint referenced on the next page,” Maaskant said in his withdrawal letter. “For this reason, I hereby withdraw this complaint.”
The complaint had already moved into committee, as Maaskant reported on Dec. 2.
Leader of the recall movement Virginia Staabs said the decision absolutely does not affect some residents’ resolve to oust the sitting GHCSD board members.
“People have been misled by the district to believe [the trash issue] was the main focus [of the recall],” Staabs said in a phone interview. “They have called us liars...[We know] there’s more they haven’t told us...If they had involved the community from the beginning, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Recall advocates will host a come-and-go informational event at Carden School, 20419 Brian Way, from 6 until 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 11.