San Juan Capistrano and Orange County Negotiate about Revenue Shares and Landfill Routes

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – The city is negotiating with the county’s waste-management agency, looking to get a bigger share of county revenues and fewer impacts from trash-truck traffic.

City Council members said they want the county to open up other routes to Prima Deshecha Landfill to reduce the number of trash trucks plying through San Juan on their way to and from the county landfill off Ortega Highway.

“We are being asked to bear the brunt,” Mayor Pam Patterson said at the council’s April 5 meeting.

The City Council expects to hear at its next meeting April 19 what the county will offer in a new memorandum of understanding with San Juan Capistrano, which is one of three landfill host cities in Orange County. The other two are Irvine and Brea.

On a 3-1 vote, San Juan council members deferred a scheduled April 5 vote on whether to join other Orange County cities in ratifying a new waste-disposal agreement with the county. It includes a continued importation of trash from outside Orange County, which otherwise is scheduled to expire June 30.

The county depends on revenue from imported trash to help stabilize rates for homes and businesses, city staff said in a memo. In recent years, recycling and waste-diversion programs have reduced the tonnage of locally generated trash going into the landfills, reducing the income to the county from the landfills. Slow recovery from the recession has contributed to this, the report said.

Most cities in the county, including San Juan, signed onto the new waste-disposal agreement last September. But one city didn’t meet the deadline and the effective date needed to be revised, officials said, so all cities are being asked again to ratify the agreement. Dylan Wright, director of OC Waste and Recycling, said the agency needs yeses from all cities by April 20.

He said failure to ratify the agreement could risk losing the imported trash, as cities outside Orange County will explore other destinations for trucking their trash.

San Juan’s city staff asked the City Council to ratify the agreement while staff continues to negotiate a separate MOU with the county. Patterson said she wanted to see what the county offers first, in the forthcoming MOU.

As a landfill host city, San Juan presently receives $1.16 per ton of imported trash, the staff memo said, and for 2014, that amounted to $22,429. The proposed agreement extending the importation of trash through 2025 includes a $5.4 million fund to share with Orange County’s cities. San Juan’s ratification payment would be 1.23 percent of the total, or $66,420, the memo said.

Councilman Sam Allevato asked why that is so low when San Juan is an impacted host city. He called it “blatantly unfair.”

Wright said host cities get additional compensation based on volume of trash. “San Juan Capistrano takes about 4 percent of the total imported waste to the county,” he said, “Brea about 66 percent and Irvine about 30 percent.”

He said the MOU is where the county and the city can further address concerns about impacts.

Councilman John Perry, when told that imported trash only accounts for 10 trash trucks daily in San Juan, said Ortega Highway is heavily impacted by trash trucks especially at peak hours. “In the morning it’s absolutely slammed,” he said. “In the afternoon it’s absolutely slammed.”

He asked the county to reduce Prima Deshecha truck traffic on Ortega at peak times, to “sweeten the pot on revenue” to San Juan and to reroute the trucks whenever possible. “If there’s only 10, why not take Crown Valley if you’re coming from Los Angeles?” he said. “It doesn’t take any more time.”

Contact the writer: fswegles@ocregister.com or 949-492-5127