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Bertolotti contract left open-ended
• City wants refuse collection conflicts resolved
City officials like the garbage collection service of Bertolotti Ceres Disposal but want better communication when it comes to leaf and limb pick-up conflicting with street sweeping. - photo by Jeff Benziger

The city of Ceres has contracted with Bertolotti Disposal for over 46 years and will continue to do so indefinitely, the City Council determined on Monday, June 25. But the company is expected to work a little better with the city to resolve problems when collecting solid waste on city streets.

City Manager Toby Wells said the city and the company have “enjoyed a long, very successful contractual relationship” since 1971. The last contract was signed March 15, 2010 as a revolving eight-year contract that would roll over year to year. Last week the council was asked if the city should place an end date of 2026 on a new contract, whereby the city could renegotiate, affirm or proceed with other options.

By the end of the discussion the council decided to leave the contract wide open with no ending date.

Vice Mayor Mike Kline wondered if the city could renegotiate the contract to iron out problems, such as scheduling conflicts between the city street sweepers with the pick-up of trash containers and/or leaf and limbs at the curb. He later said that maybe the city could adjust its street sweeping schedule to occur the day after garbage collection day.

Kline also wanted to know what the city can do to stop residents from dumping grass clippings in the gutter “because the city wants it placed in the waste-wheeler.” He noted Ceres doesn’t have a green waste container like the cities of Modesto and Turlock.

“Especially in my neighborhood, I still have probably a dozen citizens who put it in the gutter,” said Kline. “So can we negotiate something without having to put an end date, or do we have to put an end date and negotiate?”

Wells said an end date would force the company to reckon with what the city desires. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to solve those issues without an end date,” said Wells.

He said the city has been “wrestling” with citizens who have placed grass clippings in the street by writing letters and citing some. 

Councilman Ken Lane suggested no need for an end date to the contract.

“I don’t see an end date on this,” said Lane. “I think this here could be worked out with staff and Bertolotti their self and work through the issue.” He said he didn’t care if the matter wasn’t resolved until next year to see what transpires through the next leaf and limb season.

Wells said the city continues to have talks with the company to possibly modify the contract for a three-can system.

The company also provides a bulky item pickup for Ceres residents two times a year.

Steve Holloway, general manager of Bertolotti Disposal, argued against an end date. He said the city is the company’s only contract and would fold up without it.

“As far as negotiating power, you have it all,” Holloway told the council. “It’s up to you guys for pretty much the fate of our company. All we can do is try to provide the best possible service. These issues have been around and we’ve discussed them. Probably communication would be our biggest thing, I mean as far as real time when our equipment gets slammed in the winter time.”

He said cold snaps and extra trimmings can vary and affect pick-up times of leaves and limbs during the fall and winter.

“We don’t drive a 20 mile an hour street sweeping pace,” said Holloway. “Sometime we get on a street and we’ll fill the truck twice. Some of our areas are bigger, originally they didn’t have the big trees and now they’re all growing up. Last year we picked up an extra 500 tons of green waste out there.”

He said his company will work with the city to meet state mandates on diversion of green waste.

“We’re all ears,” said Holloway.

He agreed to work with a subcommittee of city staff and two council members.

He argued for possibly another eight year contract to allow his company to plan for expenses, such as the $1.2 million in new trucks and equipment purchased last year.

Holloway said the lengthy contract with Ceres allows the company to amortize its investment as well as finance new purchases. The longer contract also allows that amortization to translate into lower costs for residents, such as if the city decides to go to a third can and the company must buy new cans.

In 2017, Councilman Bret Durossette said he didn’t feel the need for Ceres to go with a third can. Last week he said putting an end date on the contract takes away the company’s “buying power” or ability to amortize the cost of cans or equipment.

Councilwoman Linda Ryno asked Wells if the city had attempted to talk to the company about changes and was told yes but scheduling conflicts still occur with street sweeping and refuse pick-up.

“When leaf and limb (pick-up) program gets behind from any number of reasons, it could be mechanical failure, it could be an accident … the street sweeper comes along and that’s where it creates a problem,” said Wells. “So obviously there’s several solutions there when we have that conversation with them. Again, we have a good relationship with them and continue with them but we’ve gotten several complaints in the last month.”

Ryno said “if we can resolve the issues then we should keep an end date on it.”

Ceres resident Gene Yeakley said the city should issue information about grass clippings in the Spanish language . “We have a large Spanish speaking community and evidently we’re not reaching them and I believe that’s the city’s fault,” said Yeakley.

Kline said he didn’t see a need for an end date as long as the company is “willing to sit down at the table.” He said the company mostly does a good job and has been responsive to his requests. He added that the city needs to start citing people who dump grass in the gutter.

Ryno agreed.

Mayor Chris Vierra said the company knows its business in Ceres but the city needs to work on the partnership.

Lane said he wants to see Bertolotti start working toward a green waste container.