Deal to privatize county landfill operations now before cities

  • A bulldozer arranges garbage for a compactor at the Sonoma County landfill off Mecham Road. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/ PD FILE, 2013)

The fate of a long-sought deal to privatize the operation of Sonoma County’s landfill now rests with the nine cities that are being asked to commit their garbage to the operation for the next 25 years.

Negotiations between the cities and the county over potential future landfill liabilities have dragged on for more than a year, delaying plans for Arizona-based Republic Services to take over the troubled Meecham Road facility long-term.

Santa Rosa, which has taken the lead in those negotiations, is set to be the first city to consider a series of agreements that aim to resolve the outstanding liability issues. The deals could also boost the estimated value of Republic’s proposed contract by more than $100 million.

The Santa Rosa City Council is taking up the complex set of agreements Tuesday night.

“This is a huge milestone because obviously the largest contributor of waste to the county system is Santa Rosa,” said Susan Klassen, transportation and public works director for Sonoma County, which will continue to own the landfill.

Klassen said she is optimistic that if Santa Rosa agrees to send its garbage to the central landfill that most other cities in the county, with the possible exception of Petaluma, will sign on to the deal. Petaluma currently sends its garbage to the Redwood Landfill in Novato.

Agreement by the cities would allow Republic Services to move forward with its plans to develop new areas of the landfill, a step the county wants to see happen soon to avoid hauling more garbage out of the county. Due to space constraints at the dump, in recent years about half the county’s waste stream has gone to a Solano County landfill.

The most significant outcome of the negotiations with cities is the move to extend by five years the length of the agreement with Republic Services, the country’s second-largest solid waste firm. The county’s April 2013 deal with Republic was for 20 years, contingent upon enough cities committing their waste to the landfill to make the agreement financially viable.

That agreement was valued by a consultant at $547 million in gross revenue over its life. Using that analysis, an additional five years would be worth an estimated $109 million, for a total contract value of $656 million in gross revenue over the life of the contract.

County officials did not have an updated value for the contract and Republic officials could not be reached Monday.

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