Oxnard City Council Meeting- 9/24/13

OxnardCC9-24-13 021By George Miller

Summary ….

– City Takeover of Del Norte Recycling Plant plan poked, prodded

– Proposal to move much waste disposal to VRSD landfill

– Council won’t take action on getting list of debt

– City “recognizes” Middle Management Association

Above: Jim Ambrosa, Senior area Municipal Services Manager, of Republic Services, Operator of Del Norte Recycling Plant

Name Date Duration Agenda Minutes Video
City Council Meeting September 24, 2013 07h 18m Agenda Video

video http://oxnard.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=46&clip_id=2513

 

– City Takeover of Del Norte Recycling Plant plan poked, prodded (agenda item J)

Council voted in July to take over the recycling facility on 2/1/14 and resolved to approve a business plan by 10/1/13. They reiterated that last week and reviewed a draft business plan at this meeting. The plan, presented at this meeting,  says they can take over by 2/1 and do it cheaper and better than Republic Services, the current operator. Some subsequent speakers, such as Jim Ambrosa of Republic Services, operator of the facility, disputed that strongly, pointing out that the plan was deeply flawed, missing much, didn’t even get the current number of employees correct and more.   He asked for more time to speak, but was was granted only the usual 3 minuets for the public and 3 more yielded by another employee. It might have been good to get more input from someone with inside knowledge on running the facility- evidently very successfully, at least on his own metrics.  Numerous facility employees got up to lament the decision and expressed concern for their jobs and futures. Some other speakers were more positive on the takeover.

OxnardCC9-24-13 003Acting Director of Public Works Rob Roshanian introduced the plan. Professor Eugene Teng (photo- left)  of CSUN &  UCLA Engineering, as well as UWLA School of Law,  managed the assembly of the plan and presented it.  It involved going through the current operation, laying out short term transition plan and changes, as well as a long term overview, considering finance, business, operations and regulatory compliance.  Too voluminous to cover here- read the plan.

He expressed confidence that a quick, safe transition was possible, but also said that lack of data could slow it down considerably, especially in winning regulatory approval for the management transfer.  Planning, execution, staffing and training will be key things to manage. Teng said Del Norte has the potential to become a national benchmark teaching integrated Material Recovery Facility (MRF).  However,  20 year old facility with obsolete, worn-out equipment needs major upgrades.

When asked what the best reference sites were, Teng referred to private rather than public sites. He also said that California is way behind leaders in waste recycling.

Both city staff and Republic employees noted that recyclable marketing is very complex, volatile and fraught with risk. City is looking to cut a deal to keep a bigger piece of the pie (75-85% vs. 50%), but there is much dispute on the size of that pie and even how to measure it.  Note that City would pay marketing, sales and transport costs, so it’s not as good as it looks.

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Above: sample page from business plan- it is complex

Also lamented was the diversion rate (only 5% recycled), vs. state average of 19%, vs. target of 80% and much higher world class numbers.  This was attributed to a combination of expertise, technology and even street urchins stealing the good stuff out of trash cans. Mayor Pro-Tem Ramirez pointed out that it will be necessary to educate and gain the support of public in their buying of goods and recycling skills to improve Oxnard’s performance.  Current law calls for 50% diversion rate per AB939/SB1016 and 75% by 20210, per AB32.  It was stated that this is de facto Kyoto Protocol (rejected by federal govt.). But even this may not be good enough for Oxnard, as “Zero Waste” , elimination of greenhouse gases vision/goal and Best Management Practices (BMP) are under discussion.  This would encompass more sophisticated pre-processing, anaerbic digestion, composting, biogas handling, thermal gasification and ash melting-n far beyond current capabilities,

It appears that very large capital investment would be required to bring the plant up to desired levels of performance.  $30MM was discussed, but numbers up to double that have been heard. It was pointed out that projected savings figures would be quickly wiped out by that kind of investment.  The plan calls for making Del Norte a benchmark site.

OxnardCC9-24-13 009Finance Director Jim Cameron discussed financing (see plan). Todd Housely (photo-left), who will run the plant and Michelle Telley (HR Director, photo below) discussed staffing. The plan is to cut the number of employees significantly. It tuned out that the reduction percentage may be far higher than they thought, since Republic Management Rep Jim Ambrosa says the current headcount is over 50. Oxnard says 43 and wants to reduce it to “35 to 40.”  Staff is struggling with getting job classifications, salary range and recruiting going. Although the Council originally resolved to offer all current employees jobs at the facility for significantly higher compensation, they appear to have rethought that.  Contracting is the backup plan.  Training and certification would be done to Solid Waste Association of North America.

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Some city staff claim that Republic has not performed adequate preventive maintenance, but conceded that it hadn’t been determined how much was  a maintenance issue and how much was just normal wear and tear on equipment.

 

 

 

 

– Proposal to move much waste disposal to VRSD landfill

VRSD has made a attractive offer to the city, which is a member of the organization, to handle most of its trash disposal at their facility in Santa Paula. The Ventura County Taxpayer Association advises against it, claiming VRSD is losing lots of money and isn’t even authorized to handle the volumes proposed (see their latest guest editorial on CJ).  Council is also reviewing a deal with Waste Management for disposal at its Simi Valley facility.  County of Ventura intervened, asking Oxnard to delay decsion until they talked.

– Council won’t take action on getting list of debt

– City “recognizes” Middle Management Association

Weeks ago, Council announced that they would be entering discussions with the Oxnard Middle Managers Association, regarding employee representation. The association had also asked them to waive a certification election. A series of secret meetings were held to negotiate this. Council announced at this meeting that they “recognized” the group. No terms of the agreement were announced. No public participation was ever solicited, no debate took place that we’re aware of. Certainly no recognized election.

– Other

Staff was previously asked to publish a monthly budget status. Finance Director Cameron pointed out that their software wasn’t up to the job and the manual machinations to get there may be too difficult.

The proposed new South Oxnard firehouse was discussed still again, with most city and public speakers strongly supporting it, more than one even claiming it served “Social Justice.”   Some said it would be an “inspiration” for the local community and even serve as a destination for school class trips. It was pointed out that the original estimate was $4 million, then $8MM, then $15MM. Now estimate are as high as $22MM. The primary justification was response time. It was cited as rather poor, but not compared to other areas of the city. Nor was it determined if response time deficiencies were primarily due to travel time or other constraints. Also criticized was the lease financing approach vs. purchase.  This was also criticized moths ago and the response was it was too late to change because interest rates had gone, up. Park advocates complained that the firehouse land had been committed for park land.  Council resolved to find substitute park land. Councilwoman Ramirez and others cited “public safety as the number 1 concern.  There is some question whether the plan ever received federal approval (a firehouse requires FEDERAL approval???).  Finally, it was pointed out that the vast majority of calls are for medical emergencies, not fires and that could be addressed with far cheaper approaches than a $22MM firehouse.  Councilman Perillo greatly lamented this “budget buster” and resolved to handle such matters better in the future (most of this predated his presence on the Council). Oh- one more thing- Mayor Flynn said Oxnard needs to find more “revenue” (revenue, as in taxes and fees?).

Council members shuffled around their many committee assignments. Councilman Perillo had the lightest committee load, which was somewhat increased at the meeting. Some readers may want to know that the the SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) rep. is Mayor Pro-Tem Carmen Ramirez.  They all have very heavy workloads, especially considering that they are all part-time, lightly compensated and most have full-time day  jobs.

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George Miller is a “retired” operations management consultant and a Citizen Journalist, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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