TURLOCK — Turlock is about top trash Merced, literally.
In a controversial move, the Turlock City Council voted last week to approve an 120-day trial program - with hopes of extending it longterm - of sending its solid waste to the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority.
Previously the city had been dumping its rubbish to Stanislaus County’s Waste-to-Energy facility and landfill. But a significant jump in the per-ton rates recently prompted the city to look outside the county lines for some financial relief.
The switch to Merced could save Turlock from $500,000 to $750,000 annually.
While the council members unanimously approved the diversion program, county officials were less than thrilled at the development. Outgoing Stanislaus County Chief Executive Officer Monica Nino sent a letter to the City of Turlock early last week disagreeing with the plan and listing numerous concerns.
Stanislaus County Assistant CEO Keith Boggs spoke out against the plan at the meeting last Tuesday as well.
“Honestly this is a classic case of having one’s cake and eating it too,” he told the council before its vote. “This isn’t about Turlock wanting to leave the regional agency... This is about the county considering leaving the regional agency, which in essence would make it a shell agency. It would have significant impact on your seven other of your city colleagues.”
Boggs said the move would harm the county and surrounding cities and potentially upend the entire regional solid waste agency. The group currently combines the waste from the county and eight surrounding cities — including Turlock — to manage its recycling program to meet state guidelines.
But the numbers were just too good for Turlock council members to resist.
The Merced facility charges $18 per ton, compare to Stanislaus County’s Waste to Energy facility’s $39.29 per ton and the landfill’s $33 per ton. When factoring in transfer and other associated fees Merced charges still totalled way less — $39 a ton compared to Stanislaus’ waste-to-energy facility’s at $57. 29 and landfill’s at $51 per ton.
The city disposes of approximately 41,000 tons of solid waste a year.
“I think you have to look at the numbers. We’re looking at three-quarters of a million dollars,” said Councilman Forrest White. “We’re no longer talking nickles and dimes. We’re talking a significant dollars. If Stanislaus County can sharpen their pencil, that’s great.”
During the 120-day trial period Turlock will work on negotiating a longterm 15-year contract with either Merced or Stanislaus County agencies, depending on who has the better bottom line. Turlock Municipal Services Director Dan Madden said either way the city plans to stay in the Stanislaus regional agency.
“Sometimes competition is kind of fun; you get to see what people will break down on,” said Councilwoman Amy Bublak. “Strong advocate of Turlock first, Stanislaus County second. I don’t want to send anything away. At the same time here I am here to represent the rate payers. I have to help the rate payers so their pocket books aren’t going broke.”