The change, which began on Monday when the city’s most recent contract with John Smith Sanitation was up, has caused a stir in town with people protesting the use of a Shasta County company rather than a local one.

After more than 40 years with the same company, the City of Mount Shasta is moving away from contract-based trash service through Dunsmuir’s John Smith Sanitation to a franchise agreement with Burney Disposal.

The change, which began on Monday when the city’s most recent contract with John Smith Sanitation was up, has caused a stir in town with people protesting the use of a Shasta County company rather than a local one. Some customers are concerned with the request that garbage cans be set out by 5 a.m. or the night before, which attracts bears and other nocturnal scavengers and may be difficult when snow is being removed.

Rumors that Mount Shasta will have no trash receptacles or dumpsters for the next year due to the new arrangement are untrue, said Mount Shasta’s Finance Director Muriel Howarth Terrell, although there will be a delay in getting new bins to businesses, which will need to bag their trash for a week or two until dumpsters are delivered.

The sanitation workers who will be working in Mount Shasta will be relocating here from Burney, said Howarth Terrell.

Some in the community were worried about an increased carbon footprint due to a 60 mile drive to and from Burney daily, but that will not be an issue as two new garbage trucks will be based in Mount Shasta. And as for the bear problem, Howarth Terrell said Burney Disposal will work with customers and the city to make adjustments in pickup time if needed.

“They’re learning as they go,” Howarth Terrell said, adding that Burney Disposal is accustomed to working in rural areas with bears, such as Pondosa and Big Bend, so they will most likely have ideas of what changes will need to occur.

Although the city is working toward a franchise agreement, the process is time consuming, Howarth Terrell said, and Burney Disposal was willing to enter into an interim agreement while details of the franchise agreement are ironed out. The interim contract rate with Burney Disposal is $46,185 per month until Dec. 31, when negotiations should be complete.

The city put out a Request for Proposals for solid waste handling in August of 2018, Howarth Terrell said, and Burney Disposal responded with an interest to negotiate a franchise agreement, as the city desired.

John Smith Sanitation was not interested in a franchise agreement, Howarth Terrell said, and instead requested a 10-year contract with some stipulations including a signing bonus, an immediate 40% increase in fees and a substantial termination penalty.

“John Smith Sanitation did submit a proposal, as we always have in the past years,” said John Smith Sanitation president Charles Smith. “The separate proposal we submitted was not a franchise agreement because after reading the 200-page franchise agreement that the city put out, it was not at all in the best interest of our long standing core business model, nor was it in the best interest of our valued customers who we provided service to in the city limits.”

“John Smith’s Sanitation’s 10-year garbage contract fees are based on current expenditures and not our past contract figures,” Charles Smith said. “Our 2019 garbage contract proposal requested $41,032 per month from the city,” what he considers a fair price.

No matter what company Mount Shasta decided to go with, garbage fees will need to be raised in the near future to cover rising costs, Howarth Terrell said. Therefore, the city will be going through the Proposition 218 process, during which residents will respond with a ballot only if they protest the increase. Over the next months, the city and Burney Disposal will be performing a cost analysis to determine a fair fee amount based on actual numbers.

What is a franchise agreement?

When a city contracts with a company for something like solid waste disposal, they must pay for things like tipping fees at the dump and recycling fees. A franchise agreement is more of a partnership, Howarth Terrell explained, and these fees would be incorporated into the agreement.

In a franchise agreement, a company agrees to handle a specific service for a specific area, and in exchange for the business, they pay a percentage of their revenue from that area back to the entity. Pacific Power has this kind of agreement with Mount Shasta, Howarth Terrell said.

The best part of a franchise agreement, in Howarth Terrell’s opinion, is that the business – in this case Burney Disposal – takes total responsibility for their services. The city will no longer need to be a middle man and the company will handle complaints and other correspondence themselves.

“Basically, we want to get out of the garbage business and leave it to those who do it as a profession,” Howarth Terrell said.

The decision

The council made the decision to not renew their contract with John Smith Sanitation at an emergency meeting held on March 22.

Charles Smith said he does not feel that contract negotiations were fair.

“Our contracts have always been signed for five or more years. And after a 40-plus years record of serving the community, there is no stability for our business nor for the customers in extending a garbage contract for just three to four months until they ‘found someone else,’” said John Smith Sanitation’s Vice President, Vivian Smith. “John Smith Sanitation was contacted by the city for the first time on February 21, 2019, to schedule a meeting to continue garbage services, that meeting was held on March 7. On March 21 ... we were notified that we needed to remove all of our dumpsters in the city limits and that the city contracted with another garbage supplier.”

“We have been a reliable, long standing, dedicated garbage hauler with the City of Mount Shasta for decades,” Charles Smith added. “We have (gone) above and beyond what is written in our contract, even working outside of our contract in good faith with the city.” He noted that in 2017, when a fire damaged Black Butte Transfer, his company traveled to Yreka Transfer to dump trash, “working overtime daily ensuring no interruptions of garbage service” for the city.

John Smith Sanitation has been in business since 1946, when John Smith, Sr. starting hauling trash in a stateside truck and later with his sons as an extra means to provide for his family. Smith Sr. was an entrepreneur who showed dedication to the city and his profession for decades, said Vivian Smith.

“My uncles and family have developed a dedication to serving the city that goes beyond the public eye,” Vivian Smith said. “I can remember on winter nights if they heard a snow storm was coming in, they would drive their trucks down from Dunsmuir closer to Mount Shasta, park their trucks, and sleep in their truck so by morning there was no excuse for being trapped in by the snow and missing garbage pick up for the residents and businesses.”

The change

With the change, recycling will not take place over the month of April but it will resume in May, Howarth Terrell said.

Starting on January 1, 2020, Burney Disposal will roll out 96 gallon containers for residential customers. They will also be conducting customer surveys to find out if smaller containers would be preferred for residents who don’t accumulate as much trash.

The company will also eventually incorporate their green waste program as state mandates occur and infrastructure is developed so items such as lawn clippings are disposed of in the most eco-friendly way possible.