Whittier Daily News: Whittier approves contract with Athens for trash pick up
The City Council late Tuesday voted 3-1 to approve a trash franchise with Athens Services that will go into effect July 1.
The three council members in support said Athens offered a better deal than the other three bidders, saying its bid maintains about $2.1 million in revenue the city now receives and gives residents a slight decrease from existing rates. The money pays for enforcement of illegal scavenging, street sweeping and recycling services.
“The current rate of $23.28 (a month) is going down to $22.55,” said Councilman Joe Vinatieri, who voted for the contract along with Mayor Fernando Dutra and Councilman Bob Henderson. “That’s a little more than 3 percent. For commercial customers, their rate is going down an average of 10 percent.”
Councilman Owen Newcomer, the lone no vote, said the process was unfair.
“The city changed its goals after it changed its bids,” Newcomer said. “We should have redone the process. We also picked the bidder with the worst reputation of the four.”
Athens has come under fire in other cities for receiving lengthy evergreen contracts while giving thousands of dollars in political contributions.
Several residents, including former Montebello Police Chief Gary Couso-Vasquez, said the bidding process was tainted because former Councilman Greg Nordbak represents Athens and that Councilwoman Cathy Warner has two sons who work for Athens. Warner recused herself from the process as a result.
“This is an illegal process,” said Mario Gras, a resident who spoke at the council meeting. “You should go back to the drawing board. The city attorney, city manager, director of public works, City Council and staff have a relationship with Nordbak, who is employed by Athens.”
Couso-Vasquez complained that Republic, which has the current contract to serve the eastern half of Whittier, was being kicked out after 30 years of serving the city.
“A Whittier business always gets a second chance,” Couso-Vasquez said. “We’re happy with their service. Don’t bring the other dirt that cities don’t want. We don’t want Montebello dirt.”
But Dutra said the charges are untrue.
“These are unsubstantiated accusations,” Dutra said. “It’s divisive and not the type of politics we want in our city.”
Dutra said that Warner never had any involvement in any discussion about the trash contract.
“Any time the ‘t’ word came up, she would leave the room. She didn’t want to talk about trash. She never wanted to be put on the spot.”
Nordbak said he has been off the council for three years and has a right to make a living.
“I never did anything illegal,” he said.
He also said his involvement was in advising Athens officials on its bid proposal and when the negotiations began with the city — after the council picked Athens — he wasn’t included.
City Manager Jeff Collier confirmed that Nordbak never talked with staff about the trash bid and that no council members were involved until it went to them in October.
Vinatieri said Athens will provide a number of better deals, such as larger cans that will increase from the existing 64-gallon containers to 96 gallons for residents.
“That means you can put more trash in these cans and some won’t need two cans,” he said.
Military families and seniors older than 62 will get a 10 percent decrease in their bill.