Two years ago, the City of Mission gave notice to Allied Waste’s owners BFI of its intention to end its contract after two decades of sanitation service.
The only problem is the contract, which renews itself annually, calls for a five-year notice of cancellation. City Manager Martin Garza said the city has deemed it the “evergreen” contract.
“The mayor and the council believe it’s a contract that ties the City of Mission’s hands and doesn’t allow us to look at other options,” Garza said.
Primarily, Garza said, the city wants to start its own sanitation department. But it can’t do that and keep paying Allied Waste $400,000 annually to pick up trash. So the city filed suit in 2012, calling the contract unconstitutional. City attorneys are arguing that cities can’t approve an evergreen contract without specifying a specific funding source.
“By law, the city cannot go into a contract that is more than a year if there are no provisions that are made to be able to fund whatever the operation is. Usually what cities do to be able to fund it, well, they use the sale of bonds, Garza said. “That’s what we are using to say, ‘Hey, constitutionally this is not right. We can’t go into a contract with you for such a long period of time.'”
The city didn’t identify a specific funding source until a recent meeting, though it was paying Allied Waste with the money collected from residents for the service.
At the end of December, Mission City Council formally specified the funding source and gave Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas authority to negotiate a settlement with BFI.
“We believe we’re getting very close settling the agreement,” Garza said.
Under the settlement still being negotiated, the city would take over residential services and Allied Waste would continue to provide commercial trash services. Because the city does not have a landfill, it’s looking at what all charges would be included as part of the agreement.
Once the settlement is finalized, the city will seek the capital needed to get the sanitation department off the ground.
“We’ll be able to provide a better service to our residents,” Garza said. “We also believe that the city can make some money from running its own sanitation department, and this is something that in the future will help our general fund.”