Company awarded Windsor’s garbage contract drops out

Citing political and legal pressures, the company already awarded Windsor’s garbage franchise has decided to withdraw, leaving the Town Council tonight to choose between two other providers.

Green Waste Recovery Inc. informed the town last week it would not provide service to Windsor because of a lawsuit by one of the unsuccessful bidders and its inability to secure a transfer facility for recyclable materials by Oct. 1, when its 10-year contract with the town was set to begin.

“The political climate in Sonoma County together with the litigation filed and threatened, has made securing and developing a site that conforms to the new requirements of the town impracticable and in time for the transition impossible,” Green Waste Recovery co-CEO Frank Weigle wrote in a letter to Town Manager Linda Kelly.

The lawsuit was filed June 28 by Windsor Refuse and Recycling, the town’s current garbage provider, which also was vying for the contract, and names both the town and Green Waste as defendants.

Windsor Refuse and Recycling claims the bid process was unfair and the town violated state public meeting laws with “secret” meetings between individual town council members and town staff. The lawsuit also alleges town officials shared confidential bid information with some of the bidders, allowing them to change their bids.

Town officials Monday said the lawsuit is baseless and Windsor simply followed the voter-mandated process that in 1996 made it the first city in Sonoma County to require competitive bidding for its garbage contract, worth in excess of $52 million in revenue over 10 years for the company that’s selected.

The high-stakes question of which company will get Windsor’s garbage contract now reverts back to the Windsor Town Council to choose between Windsor Refuse and Recycling, and Sonoma County Resource Recovery, owned by Garden City Group, Marin Sanitary Service Group and its president Kevin Walbridge.

Mayor Debora Fudge said Monday that despite the lawsuit, the current provider isn’t out of the running.

“Windsor always evaluates everybody fairly, no matter how we feel,” she said.

Two other companies - C&S Waste Solutions and USA Waste - previously withdrew from consideration.

Because many of the same players are vying for Santa Rosa’s larger contract expiring at the end of the year, Windsor’s experience is being closely watched by Santa Rosa officials.

Windsor Refuse and Recycling is owned by the Ratto Group, the same company that has the Santa Rosa contract.

In addition to the lawsuit, San Jose-based Green Waste was also having trouble securing a transfer station after objections were raised to the initial one it planned on West Robles Avenue, south of Santa Rosa. When there were threats of litigation from an environmental law firm, the company sought to put it on Lindberg Lane in Petaluma instead. But that was dropped as a result of objections from Petaluma officials, who cited nearby residences and businesses, and impacts on traffic.

The current contract garbage contract expires Sept. 30, but Windsor officials said residents need not be concerned about any interruption in service.

“Ratto has promised us in public multiple times that no matter who is chosen garbage hauler they are willing to extend our contract until a new person can get up and running,” Fudge said.

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