NORWALK – In a special meeting Friday, April 20, the Norwalk City Council voted 3-1 to reinstate CR&R Environmental Services as a finalist along with Athens in the search for a new Solid waste hauler. Leonard Shryock was absent.
Based on the numbers currently provided by Athens, the total value of the potential 10-year agreement is currently at $115,000,000 million dollars all to be paid by the residents and businesses of Norwalk.
The meeting was delayed after the council adjourned to meet in a closed session to discuss potential litigation. It was not disclosed if the discussion was related to the topic of the disposal waste proposal process and/or outcome.
After the council returned from their closed session, they heard another staff report by Adriana Figueroa, lead solid waste project leader on the solid waste Request for Proposal (RFP). She announced staff’s recommendations which included:
- Discuss and review proposed negotiated solid waste rates;
- Provide feedback and/or direct staff to continue negotiations;
- Direct staff to finalize the solid waste franchise agreement with Athens Services and schedule the agreement at a subsequent City Council meeting for review and approval.
Prior to the start of the meeting, a letter from CR&R was presented to the council for review stating: “we respectfully request that the city reopen good faith discussions with CR&R so that we may consummate this long-term transaction to the benefit of both parties and the continuing advantage of the citizens of the great city of Norwalk.”
When the council opened up the meeting to comments from the public, Senior Vice President, Dean A. Ruffridge, of CR&R reminded the council, “We beat them (Athens) at all of our rates.”
Council Member Luigi Vernola spoke up stating, “I don’t have a spreadsheet with all your numbers.”
Next to speak was Gary Clifford, Executive Vice President of Athens.
“Our program is that no one pays more than they are now,” said Clifford.
Several residents also stepped forward to give their opinions as well.
Resident Laura Santiza asked the council, “Why don’t we let the residents vote on this themselves.”
After the public portion, the council began asking questions of staff and the city manager.
Vernola asked, “Can we get a little report from the city manager…”
With that, he left his chair and approached City Manager Jesus Gomez for a discussion with his microphone off.
Mayor Jennifer Perez reminded everyone, “This has been going on for a very long process.”
Vice Mayor Margarita Rios chimed in, “I’m very curious why the information that came before us today, why that was not presented to the council immediately and soon after the first meeting with our city manager?”
She also added, “CR&R knows our city. I believe they (CR&R) and Athens have negotiated in good faith. I feel I don’t have all the information before me… Call me crazy, but I would be open to negotiating with our firms who currently service our community… Before I make my decision, I have to consider a lot. I just don’t see this transition happening in less than three months. I have my doubts.”
With that statement, Council Member Tony Ayala said, “I think it’s important we follow our own rules.”
“I completely feel that CR&R was given the opportunity,” said Perez.
She reminded the chamber again, “We got a letter [from CR&R] 5 minutes before our meeting!”
“Hold on!” interjected Vernola. “We’re looking for the best deal for the community.”
Vernola then made the motion that, “Both CR&R and Athens [submit] best and final rates by Monday (April 23).”
The motion carried 3-1 with Tony Ayala voting no.
Asked about the decision afterwards Ruffridge said, “They made the right decision.”
Asked if CR&R would continue making campaign contributions to the Norwalk City council members, he added, “No plans to offer future company contributions.”
Both Ayala and Perez list CR&R as campaign contributors on Norwalk public records with $2,000.00 each being received by CR&R.
Asked about her contributors she listed, Perez referred to the public records.
Although a regular council meeting isn’t scheduled until May 1, it is possible a special meeting could be called to discuss the finding from Monday’s noon deadline.
By Raul Samaniego