City leaders consider privatization of Lemoore's longtime refuse service

By Ed Martin, Editor
Lemoore City Manager Nathan Olson helps to lead a discussion regarding possible privatization of the city's refuse department.
Lemoore City Manager Nathan Olson helps to lead a discussion regarding possible privatization of the city's refuse department.
Photo by Gary Feinstein

Lemoore’s city council members, city refuse employees, and city leadership joined a handful of community members as they attended a Monday night (Oct. 30) study session in the Lemoore Civic Auditorium devoted to the possible privatization of the city’s longtime refuse service.

What exactly is at stake?

A contingent of high-level employees from Mid Valley Disposal (MVD) was in the audience Monday night, seeking to take charge of the city’s burgeoning and expensive refuse department, which currently, every week, collects and disposes of the city’s residents' refuse.

Mid Valley representatives told council members and a contingent of city employees (approximately 50 people were in attendance, including refuse department employees and other staff) that it would boost its weekly can-pick-up service to three cans every week. Currently, the City of Lemoore alternates between the blue and green can on a weekly basis.

“All three cans will be picked up every week,” said Lemoore City Manager Nathan Olson.

Currently, Lemoore provides three cans to city residents: A black can for refuse, a green can for yard waste, and a recyclables’ can. Currently, the blue and green cans are picked up on alternate weeks.

According to its website, Mid Valley Disposal is a leader in the San Joaquin Valley refuse business. Services include recycling, organics, and picking up solid waste across the Central Valley. The company's origins rest with the Kalpakoff family, with its four generations of experience in operating a solid waste management company in California.

Susie Banuelos asks a question during the Monday night meeting.
Susie Banuelos asks a question during the Monday night meeting.
Photo by Gary Feinstein

Today, MVD is led by Joseph Kalpakoff, and with over 350 employees, MVD provides exclusive collection services to 31 local jurisdictions and is permitted to provide collection services in Fresno, Merced, Kings, and Tulare Counties.

One of the principals at MVD, Joseph Calcot, while seeking to take over Lemoore’s refuse operation, praised the city’s employees who work in the refuse department. “Your employees have done a great job,” he told councilmembers.

Calcot told councilmembers that his company has trucks covering much of the Valley. And according to a city flyer distributed to audience members, the employees currently working in the refuse department will be offered comparable positions within the MVD.

He told councilmembers that his company serves 27 Central Valley cities.

One of the particulars of a possible agreement is a 15% franchise fee – approximately $665,000 annually – which would go into the city’s coffers on an annual basis. The deal also involves a franchise award fee, a one-time payment of $600,000 that would go into the city’s general fund.

A Coalinga council member was on hand to support MVD’s effort to privatize the city’s refuse operation. He told council members that MVD does an excellent job for his city. “They take care of everything,” he said. “ That’s the type of company they are.”

All five council members, including Mayor Patricia Mathews, attended the Monday night meeting.

The refuse department is an expensive operation. The 2022-23 refuse budget calls for a proposed budget of $4,424,215.

However, there appeared to be concerns. “This is not a done deal,” said Councilmember Dave Orth. “This is the first time I saw this (proposal),” he said. He added, “Our city spends more money than we make.”

Lemoore City Manager Olson, on Nov. 1, told The Leader that a decision on refuse privatization may have to wait while city officials look into a CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement)  issue regarding city refuse department employees, some of whom may be long-term employees who could lose or have their pensions cut back should they accept jobs with MVD.  

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