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City considers joining garbage review group
January 28, 2013, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

The San Carlos City Council will consider Monday night if it wishes to join Redwood City and other members of the Peninsula's garbage agency in forming a task force to evaluate if the group is being as efficient as possible while asking customers to accept annual rate hikes.

The Redwood City Council in December threw out the invitation to other members of the South Bay Waste Management Authority to look at possible changes to its "governance structure and board composition.” On Monday night, the San Carlos City Council will decide whether to join up or pass.

Assistant City Manager Brian Moura, who also sits on the SBWMA, is recommending the council say yes and appoint a councilmember rather than a high-level staff member as the city's representative.

"Since we already have a staff member involved, namely me, I don't see any additional value in putting another one in the group since what Redwood City wants is a fresh look,” Moura said.

The SBWMA, also known as RethinkWaste, formed in 1982 and its members include Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, East Palo Alto, Foster City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Mateo, San Mateo County and the West Bay Sanitary District. It owns the Shoreway Environmental Center in San Carlos and is led by an executive director who reports to a board of directors comprised of city staff from the various cities.

The SBWMA's budget for fiscal year 2012 included more than $40 million in revenue and operating expenses of $36.5 million. The program budget of $3.5 million includes the cost of 7.8 employees along with other administrative, recycling diversion program and contract compliance expenses.

Redwood City's move to evaluate the agency comes on the heels of repeated fee hikes and the handling of an ex-employee's retaliation claim against the executive director after her job was cut. In deciding to form a task force, Redwood City Councilwoman Rosanne Foust used as an example questions over why the SBWMA did not put the director on leave while investigating the matter.

She and the rest of the council asked other agencies to consider joining and name a representative by February. Joining Redwood City so far are Belmont, Hillsborough, Burlingame and the West Bay Sanitary District, said Redwood City spokesman Malcolm Smith.

In proposing the task force, City Manager Bob Bell previously told the Daily Journal it might also consider a common suggestion to change the board to elected officials rather than appointed staff.

If San Carlos decided to participate, Moura said the city may also want to ask that other aspects of the operations be looked at such as the host fee. The city receives 5 percent of the gate fee revenues of material processed at the SBWMA transfer station in San Carlos to offset the wear and tear to streets and the land's unavailability for a different economic use like a big-box retail store.

The fee is roughly $1.4 million annually, Moura said.

But other Bay Area cities like Fremont that host stations have raised their host fees, some even double that of San Carlos, and Moura said doing so on the Peninsula might be worth consideration by the task force.

Even if the task force does take shape, any suggestions by it will not necessarily translate into change. Any amendment requires a supermajority of at least eight member agencies to be on board.

  The San Carlos City Council will meet 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28 at City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

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