Supervisors consider privatizing county-owned waste sites

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Riverside County supervisors will consider today whether to move ahead with leasing more than three-dozen dormant and active county-owned and -operated landfills to boost revenue to the general fund.

According to Department of Waste Management documents, the county envisions setting up long-term leases with private interests that will take control of dump sites ``in exchange for a lump-sum and ongoing royalty payment'' to the county.

The Board of Supervisors is slated to vote on the matter during its afternoon session, which begins at 1:30 p.m.

In proposed bid documents, the county states that the goal is to provide an ``ongoing revenue stream to the county in connection with the solid waste system'' while ensuring ``reasonable disposal rates to the citizens of Riverside County'' and ``long-term rate stability'' for municipalities.

The city of Riverside has already expressed concerns about the possibility of private entities taking over landfill space and jacking up rates, which would be passed on to city residents.

During a board meeting in early June, supervisors generally agreed funding from landfill leases would be dedicated to public safety initiatives, including jail expansion projects.

Only six waste disposal sites are operational countywide -- the Badlands Sanitary Landfill near Moreno Valley, the Blythe Sanitary Landfill, the Desert Center Sanitary Landfill, the Lamb Canyon Sanitary Landfill near Beaumont, the Mecca Sanitary Landfill and the Oasis Sanitary Landfill.

The county's remaining 32 waste disposal sites -- which comprise roughly 3,054 acres -- are dormant, documents showed.

The board directed that all lessees be required to freeze disposal rates for 10 years, allowing only for upward adjustments that track with the regional rate of inflation; accept all liabilities, including potential environmental hazards, associated with a property, holding the county blameless; and maintain current service levels, including hours of operation, provided a landfill is active.

The county's 28 cities, which contain 75 percent of the county's population, utilize the trash collection sites.

According to the Department of Waste Management, liabilities tied to the inactive sites total $145.7 million.

If the supervisors OK it, bidding will be open immediately and will conclude on Aug. 26.

During today's meeting, the board will also decide whether to sign off on contracts with the Los Angeles-based Nossaman law firm, as well as municipal management advisers HF&H Consultants, based in Walnut Creek.

According to the Office of County Counsel, the two entities should be awarded contracts -- without competitive bidding -- because they're the best-qualified to serve the county's interests. The contracts are valued at $593,844.

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