Dinuba opens the lid on trash hauler contracts

Dinuba City Council authorizes staff request to begin bidding process for trash collection contractors, reiterates desire for more information

Dinuba City Councilmember Linda Launer asks a question during the council meeting Feb. 13, 2024. (Serena Bettis)
Serena Bettis
Published February 15, 2024  • 
11:00 am

DINUBA – City staff received approval to open up the competitive bidding process for trash collection contractors, the first step of many in the city’s effort to ensure it is fairly considering all trash collector options.

Dinuba Public Works Director George Avila first introduced the item at the Jan. 9 meeting, at which time council members directed city staff to schedule a work session on the topic before bringing the item back. Although that did not happen, the Dinuba City Council unanimously voted on Feb. 13 to approve the request while insisting the city hold a work session before getting too far into the process.

“As far as I’m concerned, … I’m very disappointed that we did not have a work session,” Mayor Maribel Reynosa said. “I think we were pretty clear the last time that we wanted a work session, and we’re here without a work session. I do understand that the whole process is gonna be lengthy, so … I’m not going to oppose it, but I’m disappointed that we didn’t have the work session.”

At the Feb. 13 council meeting, Avila reviewed why the city wants to start a Request for Proposal (RFP) process for its solid waste, recycling and organics collection contract. 

First, the city began contracting with Peña’s Disposal Service in 1981 and has not engaged in a RFP process for the contract since then. Instead, the contract has been amended and extended for nearly 44 years. 

Second, the state of California has implemented multiple new regulations regarding waste disposal services, and the city has a responsibility to ensure its contractor is following those regulations. City staff feel that going through the RFP process would be the best way to ensure they are covering all of their bases in a contract, even if the contractor doesn’t change.

“Our position is that just for due diligence and an effort to be consistent with other contracts that we competitively procure, we think it’s in the best interest of the city to do that (RFP),” Avila said.

The Dinuba City Council discusses a consent calendar item at the regular meeting in Dinuba Feb. 13, 2024. (Serena Bettis)

The city has made it clear that the request is not about the performance of Peña’s Disposal, a local company, but instead about the city’s duty to be accountable to its residents and thorough with everything it does. 

Council members said they agreed with the city’s reasoning, but they still had reservations regarding the unknown variables that could come up with a trash collector contract and they want to be well-informed well before it comes time to approve a new contract, whether it is with Peña’s Disposal or otherwise.

As reported by the Mid Valley Times in January, the city council discussed their concerns and questions during the Jan. 9 meeting surrounding the effects opening up the contract could have on Peña’s Disposal, residents’ trash fees and the overall level of service the city receives from its trash collector. 

Councilmember Linda Launer reiterated her concern that the city could end up entering into an agreement with a different service provider because they appeared to have the best rates, only to end up with a lower quality of service and major rate hikes a few years down the road. 

“It is time to take a look at what is being offered and what is also available to us, but I would hate us to get into a situation of it looks good with another provider, without detail, and then adjustments having to be made,” Launer said. 

As one of the main clients for Peña’s Disposal, Launer said she would hate to see the company be put out of business by the city not contracting with it only for the city’s new contractor to not work out well. 

Councilmember Benjamin Prado also repeated one of his main talking points from the previous discussion, which is that he would like to see more information about what similarly-sized cities in the area are paying for their trash collection services, so the council can be confident that they are doing their due diligence in determining what is best for their constituents. 

All council members agreed that a work session to talk through the details and learn more about what the city needs to see in a contract is vital to the success of this RFP process. 

“We need to figure all that out, and I know the council should not be involved in the day-to-day affairs of the city, … but we need to have an understanding of what the citizens are going to be paying for,” Councilmember Kuldip Thusu said. “I’m supportive of the (staff) recommendation, but before we do anything, we need to have a proper understanding of what’s going on.” 

As the city goes through the RFP process, staff will make a concerted effort to engage the council in any decision-making that occurs, Avila said.

According to a staff report, the city would prepare the RFP package in April, issue it in May and eventually finalize a new agreement and bring it to council for approval by December. The current contract with Peña’s Disposal expires on June 30, 2025. 

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter