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Western Elite wants to handle trash pickup in Las Vegas

Waste-management company Western Elite wants the chance to manage Las Vegas trash.

Their competitor, Republic Services of Southern Nevada, has held an exclusive franchise agreement with Las Vegas for all garbage pickup since at least 1985. Their current agreement expires in 2021, but Republic Services has been negotiating with the city of Las Vegas for a 15-year contract extension.

“We have five years to solve these problems as a community; what’s the rush?” asked Scott Seastrand, vice president of Western Elite.

An attorney representing Seastrand hand-delivered a letter to Mayor Carolyn Goodman and all City Council members Monday asking the city to put the contract out for bid.

“We are writing this letter to make it clear to the City of Las Vegas that there are choices other than Republic to be considered,” the letter reads. “There is no need to adhere to the same practices and no justification for the competitive exception that have allowed Republic to enjoy, in essence, a never-ending monopoly for waste hauling and landfill services.”

City Councilman Bob Beers, who represents the city’s Ward 2, said he would like to meet with Western Elite “to discuss the concept,” but unless they can offer specific ways they would offer a better or more cost-effective service, Beers said it would be a tough sell.

”It’s hard to argue with success,” Beers said. “Residents in Clark County pay amongst the lowest for garbage service in our half of the United States, and we don’t have garbage piled up in our streets, generally.”

Seastrand told the Review-Journal that with such long contract agreements, an opportunity to compete only comes once every so often.

“We’re advocating transparency and accountability, and this is the one time we can get it. If we extend it (Republic’s current contract) now without going through the real process of finding out what the options are, then those options are off the table for many years. And, to boot, we’re doing it five years in advance of the contract even expiring.”

Tim Oudman, market vice president with Republic Services of Southern Nevada, said via email, “Our belief is that the city of Las Vegas will be better served continuing to partner with Republic Services. This has turned out to be the case in the other jurisdictions that we have entered into long term partnerships with.”

Related to negotiations for a contract extension, Beers said it appears that Republic Services is also working with the city on an updated ordinance, which competitors say will stifle competition and eat into their revenue.

A proposed change by Republic Services to the definition of “construction or demolition waste” would cost Seastrand an estimated 30 percent of revenue.

“It could be more than that,” Seastrand said.

The ordinance would change the definition of “construction or demolition waste” to generally mean material that is generated at a site with the required building or demolition permits, among other definition changes.

Seastrand argues that would mean an end to collecting material from individuals redoing their kitchens, floors or roofs, for example.

Chris Darling, manager at A Track Out Solution, which competes with Republic Services in the construction and demolition market, said the definition change could have major implications for his business.

“A substantial amount of our work comes from home owners doing DIY projects, like redoing tile in their kitchen, or replacing rugs in their home,” Darling said via email.

If those types of renovations were to require building permits, A Track Out Solution would not be able to service those customers anymore, he added.

“If a homeowner was trimming his palm trees and needed to get rid of the palm fronds, I couldn’t service them either because it also says we can not pick up landscape waste. Keep in mind RS (Republic Services) trash cans at a home can not fit a remodel’s waste, so they will be forced to call RS for a dumpster to get rid of their waste from their DIY project,” Darling said.

Darling said the definition change would put private waste hauling companies out of business.

“It will be bad for the environment and RS will have a monopoly in C and D and recycling. Last I knew government’s role is to break up monopolies, not create them,” he said.

Seastrand said that if the city is going to change their definitions, the city should follow the example of other municipalities.

“If they’re going to change it (the definition) they should change it to match everybody else, and not change it to something new,” he said.

Other municipalities have adopted the Southern Nevada Health District’s definition of construction and demolition, which do not generally require a building or demolition permit for smaller-scale such projects.

Health District Solid Waste and Compliance Manager Dante Merriweather said the Southern Nevada Health District has been trying to get each jurisdiction to adopt SNHD definitions for “a number of years,” to make the definitions more “cohesive, connected and consistent.”

Oudman said in a response via email, “We are not necessarily tied to this definition but do want the definitions to be consistent among the communities in the valley.”

The city of Las Vegas is collecting public comment on the proposed ordinance change until Nov. 28.

Republic already has contracts in place with Henderson, dating back to 1973 under prior ownership; North Las Vegas, since 1978; Clark County, since 1993 under prior ownership; and Las Vegas, since 1985.

Contact Nicole Raz at nraz@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512. Follow @JournalistNikki on Twitter.

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