The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to begin noncompetitive contract talks with MarBorg Industries that, if consummated, would give the South Coast’s family-owned trash hauler a citywide garbage monopoly for the next 10 years, not to mention a virtual monopoly throughout almost the entire South Coast. In the same breath, however, the councilmembers rejected an initial franchise proposal submitted by the company.
City garbage planners and their consultants said City Hall should negotiate for lower trash rates than MarBorg is now offering and push harder for greater recycling. Councilmember-elect Cathy Murillo accused MarBorg of playing “hardball” and urged the council to look out for the interests of renters and low-income residents. Company representative Derek Carlson noted 18,134 of MarBorg’s 20,499 ratepayers would see their trash bills go down — many by as much as 14 percent — if the proposal was accepted as is. MarBorg political consultant Jeremy Lindaman added that most of the low-income renters alluded to by Murillo would see their rates drop by roughly 30 percent.
To the extent there was debate, it was over how much the consultants hired by City Hall should spend on evaluating MarBorg’s proposal and in preparing city negotiators for the bargaining sessions that lie ahead. Currently, $120,000 has been authorized, which the trash hauler will pay for. Should negotiations succeed, MarBorg — which has held a franchise for half the city’s trash pickup for the past 10 years — would have a contract that generates $16 million a year. Should negotiations fail to bear fruit after six months, City Hall has reserved the right to reopen the competitive bidding process.