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New trash container program in the works

March 29, 2001

Jennifer Kho

COSTA MESA -- After receiving positive comments from residents at a

study session last week, the Costa Mesa Sanitary District board decided

to postpone its vote on a proposed standardized container program until

its next meeting.

"I'd like to see Costa Mesa stay beautiful, as well, and that seems to

go by the wayside about [trash day]," said Bob Osgood, a Costa Mesa

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resident. "There needs to be a new mind-set. People think, 'I'm done with

this, I'll put it out on the sidewalk,' when it may need to be cut up and

put in a trash container. It might be a matter of discipline. I think

this is a step in the right direction here."

All board members, except Dan Worthington, said they favor a

cross-linked container, which is considered stronger than linear cans.

The program, if approved, will give residents their choice of standard

35, 60 or 90-gallon cans free of charge.

Residents will also have the option of receiving additional cans, but

the board has not decided whether residents will have to pay for those,

said Rob Hamers, general manager for the district.

The sanitary district has been working on the program for more than

two years.

"I feel we've talked about this for so long, we need to start

deciding," said Arlene Schafer, board president.

The board had its final scheduled study session to discuss the program

last week and directed sanitary district staff to place it on the April

12 agenda.

District board members say the change -- which would allow Costa Mesa

Disposal to pick up the cans using a semiautomatic trash truck arm,

keeping its now-skyrocketing insurance rates down and, in turn, holding

the city's rates flat -- will beautify the city, protect workers and help

to keep rates stable.

Some residents had opposed the plan, saying Costa Mesa Disposal will

get the benefits while the residents will be inconvenienced. Those

residents feel they will have to store the city's containers and fear

their trash pickup might stop because of excess trash that may not fit in

the containers.

Sanitary district board members were previously unsure whether the

hauler would pick up trash left outside of the containers, but Costa Mesa

Disposal representatives at the study session said the hauler will

continue to pick up extra trash unless the city switches to a

fully-automated trash pickup system.

The district is not considering a fully-automated system at this time,

Hamers said.

"They seem to have changed their tune," said Ernie Feeney, a Costa

Mesa resident who previously opposed the program.

Marc Puckett, treasurer of the board, said the program can be financed

without cost to residents.

The district has $2.5 million in reserves for extra operating expenses

and capital improvements, and the standardized trash containers would

cost between $1.5 and $2 million.

Puckett is recommending the board finance the containers and keep a

$1-million reserve in case of economic uncertainties -- such as

electricity increases -- that could lead to shortfalls in the district's

operating budget.

By investing its reserve, the district could make enough money to more

than cover the interest it would have to pay for financing the

containers, he said.

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