The San Fernando Chamber of Commerce is unsatisfied with the city’s trash collecting contractor and it made its unhappiness known during the last city council meeting.
In a prepared statement read on Jan. 22 during public comment, chamber officials said businesses here often experience missed pickups, ignored calls for service, and slow responses from Republic Services, the solid waste removal contractor for the city.
They also allege the city’s public works department has been picking up the slack for duties that correspond to the contractor.
“While we cannot speak to the performance of Republic in the collection of residential trash, their handling of the business collection has been spotty at best,” said Sandra Silva, owner of Manzanitas Las Originales and a chamber member, who read the statement.
Silva said that while the chamber of commerce has received positive feedback from residents in single-family homes who “enjoy this service at a cost that is very close to the cost of the previous provider,” some businesses are paying up to three times more for worse service.
The chamber “urges the city and Republic Services” to spread the cost more equitably or allow other contractors to service the city, “so businesses aren’t held hostage,” Silva said.
Interestingly, Silva read this statement following a presentation by Republic Services about its community involvement now that they are halfway through their 10-year agreement with the City of San Fernando.
Municipal Relationship Manager Francella Aguilar, highlighted the company’s outreach and education events, as well as additional services like the quarterly free bulky item drop-off events it provided to the city.
City officials contracted Republic Services to haul the city’s trash, recyclables, and green/ food waste in 2013 after its contract with Crown Disposal expired. Crown submitted a proposal to renew their contract, but the City selected Consolidated Disposal Services (doing business as Republic Services).
According to the 2013 staff report, four companies made a bid for the contract. Crown offered lower customer rates, but Republic “ranked first in qualifications, technical approach, sustainability programs, and offered many service enhancements,” the report said.
Among the service enhancements listed were unlimited waste collection from city facilities, a $10,000 community investment fund donation, anti-scavenging programs, and an annual Cesar Chavez $1,000 college scholarship.
Crown’s agreement did not include rates for those services but it guaranteed not to exceed 75 percent of the solid waste rates to customers requesting that service.
Initially, the city’s relationship with Republic Services had a rough start. The previous waste contractor left no route information or business plan for Republic to follow, according to Mayor Joel Fajardo. Then, San Fernando property owners were put in a predicament when they were notified of tax liens on their properties due to outstanding trash bills that tenants were not paying.
Last summer, issues arose when Republic was not hauling away items that were illegally dumped in trash bins at the San Fernando Mall and downtown areas. But those issues were resolved, according to Republic and the city; payments were arranged for outstanding trash bills, routes were established, and the city’s public works department activated a plan with Republic that includes monthly meetings, building some trash bin enclosures, and adjusting pick-up times to resolve the illegal dumping.
City officials, however, had no record of the issues presented at the Jan. 22 council meeting.
Once illegal dumping became an issue, the City began keeping a log — dating back to July 2018 — to record and track all trash issues reported. The log shows no issues being reported in the past three months.
Silva’s landlord, developer Severyn Aszkenazy (and co-publisher of this newspaper) also attended the meeting. He said he has 27 accounts with Republic, and in the past year it has taken 78 emails, 42 texts, more than 50 calls and many meetings to resolve the issues of businesses required to use Republic’s services, a “severe disadvantage.”
“So we make all this research, which takes even more time, for the benefit of the city to manage the contract with Republic, but the person that’s been damaged gets nothing out of it,” Aszkenazy said.
Yazdan Emrani, City director of public works, told the San Fernando Valley Sun/ El Sol that city officials could not address problems they are unaware of.
He said customers are welcome to report problems directly to Republic, but Emrani also encourages customers to report issues to the City so they can be logged and forwarded to Republic. That way, repeated problems can be addressed and resolved at the city’s monthly meetings with Republic, according to the service agreement.
The service agreement includes liquidated damage costs to the City that Republic must pay ranging from $100 to $5,000 per day per incident. For example, if one single-family residency’s bin is not picked up, Republic must pay $100 per day it is not picked up.
Aguilar said when an incident like missed pick-ups occur, the customer is granted credit toward their account and the problem is resolved within 24 hours. She confirmed that Republic keeps its own log of reported issues, but said she was unable to release that log.
It was not confirmed if Askenazy had received credits for service issues.
After Aguilar’s presentation, Fajardo encouraged Republic Services to conduct a city-wide customer satisfaction survey like the previous trash contractor had done.
The council also unanimously approved a contract worth more than $600,000 to United Maintenance Systems, a Los Angeles janitorial company.
The contract with United Maintenance Systems for $214, 200 per year will provide janitorial services to nine city properties that include City Hall, the police station, and City parks and recreational centers.
United Maintenance Systems was granted the contract by offering the lowest bid. But the new contract will increase $54,060 more per year for the same services. The staff report said the current janitorial company did not submit a proposal to the city. Councilmember Antonio Lopez said the company did not want to continue providing service.
In addition, the council approved the San Fernando Police Department’s participation in the state Office of Emergency Services Law Enforcement Support Office Program, which allows the city to receive surplus equipment from the United States Department of Defense such as vehicles, tools, firing range equipment, robots, weapons, and tactical vehicles at no cost to the city.
Police Chief Anthony Vairo said he hoped to acquire some all-terrain vehicles that could be used by any City department — not police.
To date, the city has not yet received any equipment from this program.