DINUBA – In an effort to evaluate trash services and address new state regulations, the city of Dinuba is considering competitive bids for waste management contracts, sparking discussion from the council.
At the most recent Dinuba City Council meeting on Jan. 9, city staff asked council to authorize the initiation of a Request for Proposal (RFP) process to solicit formal bids from contractors who handle trash disposal and recycling. City councilors were hesitant to approve the request, and instead directed staff to schedule a work session providing the council with more detailed information about their request.
Dinuba Public Works Director George Avila said the city has contracted with local business Peña’s Disposal Service since 1981, and while the contract has been amended and extended since then, no other company has had a chance to bid on the service.
“The city throughout this time has had a good relationship with Peña’s; we’ve received good service from them,” Avila said. “But at this point, given the length of time of the contract — 40 plus years — we believe the city would be doing its due diligence and that it would be appropriate for this contract to be competitively bid once again.”
Avila said the current contract is set to end on June 30, 2025. Within that time, he proposed the city hire a professional consultant that specializes in trash disposal and recycling compliance to help prepare the RFP and review bids that come in.
City staff said they thought the RFP process would be best for multiple reasons. First, by undergoing a formal bidding process, they would be doing their due diligence as a city in ensuring that residents are getting the best service possible. Second, they would be able to work with a consultant to review all of the new state regulations about recycling to ensure that the contracted services are in compliance.
Assistant City Manager Daniel James stressed that this request was not an indictment of the service provided by Peña’s, but rather a way for the city to demonstrate that it is being fair to all possible contractors and is working to stay up to date on state laws.
However, Avila said that a consultant could cost the city roughly $80,000, based on the preliminary estimate he received from a specialized consultant he had been in contact with. The city would then require the contractor that won the RFP bid to pay for that cost.
Councilmember Linda Launer questioned why they would want to “reinvent the wheel” if the contract has already been working for 44 years, especially if that would come at such a steep cost.
“Are we at this point, because it’s been 44 years, needing to send it (the contract) out again, get it all done, pay the $80,000, put that extra money in each individual’s bill to cover the cost of the $80,000, just so that we can dot our Is and cross our Ts?” Launer said.
Councilmember Benjamin Prado asked if any study had been done on trash service rates that nearby, comparably-sized cities pay, and Councilmember Kuldip Thusu asked if any cost analysis had been done on the potential increase in consumer costs caused by new state regulations.
“These talking points are really at the heart of this entire (RFP) process and the reason to do it,” James said.
During public comment, Art Peña of Peña’s Disposal talked about the company’s history and said that he would bet on his company having the lowest rates in all of California. Peña said that they were on the forefront of recycling processing in the 1990s and more recently expanded their recycling facility and permits in 2016.
Peña’s Disposal currently has contracts with Dinuba, Orange and Tulare and Fresno counties, and also processes recycling for Visalia, Porterville and Delano, Peña said.
“We dedicated ourselves to providing the best possible service that we can locally,” Peña said. “We’ve had challenges just like every other company has in regards to drivers and equipment and so forth, but I think our future is bright.”
Peña asked the council to not approve the city staff recommendation, but instead make an amendment to the current contract and stay with his company. He said he would be willing to work with a consultant to negotiate the terms of the contract and that he has been trying to work with the city for the last several years to figure out how they would go forward with the newest regulations.
“I would ask the council to have staff come back with a different agenda item that maybe works with our company to amend and extend the contract,” Peña said. “I’m not talking for 20 years … five to seven years maybe. … I think that’s the prudent thing to do, (and) you’re going to keep your cost down. We’re not gonna spend $80,000 to have a small amendment done to the contract.”
Mayor Maribel Reynosa ultimately directed city staff to schedule a work session with the city council and bring more information about the consultant the city wants to work with and what kind of process they would undertake, the different rates other cities pay for their trash disposal services and what state regulations the city needs to review to ensure compliance.