Controversy over how to pick a trash hauler in Rosemead

Some question the need to hire a consultant to help find a new trash hauler


Trash is scattered around a filled bag. Photo courtesy of Unsplash, by Jon Tyson (@jontyson).

Should Rosemead pay a consultant nearly $140,000 to find a new trash hauler — or renew its longtime garbage company, Republic Services?

Council members debated that issue recently.

A council member who is on military leave, Steven Ly, initially suggested hiring the consultant to help find a new trash company and the city’s staff agreed, according to a staff report.

Ly received a combined $9,800 in contributions earlier this year from two competing trash companies, Athens Services and Valley Vista Services, according to campaign finance records obtained by UT Community News from the city of Rosemead for the first six months of the year.

While Republic didn’t make contributions to Ly in the first half of the year, according to the city’s records, it did donate to two council members who effectively wanted the council to discuss the issue instead of automatically approving the staff’s recommendation to hire a consultant to find a new company.

In May, Republic Services — the city’s garbage company since 1991 — donated $2,700 to council member Margaret Clark and $900 to Sandra Armenta.

Supporters of a consultant likened it to hiring a real estate agent to help find a home.

“The industry is a highly complex issue… The city needs an expert to help guide us there,’ John Tang, who is filling in for Ly, who is on military-related leave, according to the city’s website.

Clark said the cost may not be worth it: “I believe the complexity can be handled by the trash haulers. I don’t think we need to spend $139,000 on a consultant.”

Ly, who is on military leave, could not be reached despite an email and phone call to his office.

When reached by phone, Clark said she was the only one on the council to vote against hiring a consultant because she knew it would be costly.

“When this item came in front of the council, there was discussion and it was not automatically approved. For me, being SB 1383-compliant by far was the most important reason to hire a consultant. Cities will receive heavy penalties if they are out of compliance,” Armenta said in an email.

After the discussion, the council approved hiring the consultant, R3 Consulting Group, Inc., by a 4-1 vote.

Half a dozen residents weighed it to UT Community News’ question about the issue on Facebook, with several saying they support the current trash hauler and others saying contracts should be bid out competitively every few years — though a consultant isn’t required to do that.

“I have no complaints,” wrote Norma Frias. “It’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

Barbara Murphy, a resident of Rosemead, said check out different garbage companies is a good idea: “Competition is what makes capitalism work.”

Republic, Athens and Valley Vista representatives could not be reached for comment despite emails.