A dispute over prevailing wage law cast a shadow over Santa Clara’s renewal of a contract with its recycling provider.
Whether the City should pay prevailing wage to employees sorting recyclables was a point of contention between City Attorney Brian Doyle and Vice Mayor Patricia Mahan, who is also an attorney, at the Santa Clara City Council’s Tuesday night meeting.
The dispute came about as part of a presentation from Dave Staub, Deputy Director of Public Works, who sought Council approval on an agreement for recycling services with Recology.
Staub called the contract with Recology — which would see residents’ rates increase from roughly $4.40/month to $6.35/month over the next few years — a “very good value for the City,” saying the rate increase was “unavoidable.” The increase, he said, has a lot to do with operating cost exceeding the consumer price index and the revenue from recyclable materials waning in light of China’s National Sword Policy.
Recology expects to increase its routes from 6.5 to 7 routes, purchase new renewable diesel trucks and plans to offer free recyclable bags to multi-family dwelling units.
Still, Mahan questioned whether the City was getting a good rate with Recology because it is not paying prevailing wages to those sorting recyclables.
However, Doyle said the contract is not subject to the labor code despite a ruling in a Los Angeles County case that is similar.
“You are wrong Council Member,” he sniped at Mahan. “I am the City Attorney, and I am reading the case.”
Although he applauded the Council’s decision to renew the contract, John Bouchard, with Teamster local 350, said he too was concerned with the lack of prevailing wage provisions in the contract, saying it creates a “dangerous precedent” because companies like Recology contract with Green Waste, who “severely underbid” projects, “exploiting workers.”
The agreement with Recology required a $199, 860 budget amendment for fiscal year 2020/21. The Council approved renewing the contract with Recology, which will run through 2036, in a unanimous vote.
Silicon Valley Power Gets Accolades
Two agenda items focused on Silicon Valley Power (SVP).
The first, was the approval of a substation that will provide power to the Related Santa Clara development, located at 5155 Stars and Stripes Drive, set to open in 2022.
The substation — which will cost $21.2 million, of which Related Santa Clara with reimburse the City $9.7 million — will ensure the Related development has enough power. The 240-acre, 9.2-million-square-feet complex will only use roughly 40 percent of the power generated by the substation, at least during its early phases.
Assistant City Manager and SVP Chief Electric Utility Officer Manuel Pineda called the substation a “key component” of the project.
Pineda also gave a quarterly report for SVP. He told the Council that SVP plans to bring three more substations online in the next few years in an attempt to increase the City’s maximum load to 1,000 megawatts. An increase the City’s electric vehicle charging capabilities is also on the horizon as SVP plans to deploy an entirely electric fleet of vehicles in the next five to 10 years.
More than $250 million in capital improvements are slated for that time.
Several members of the Council also lauded SVP’s response during the storm over the Thanksgiving holiday.
“You really weathered the storm for us,” Mayor Lisa Gillmor said.
To get better clarity, the Council also changed the policy by which it establishes things by consensus at the behest of the City Attorney. In a unanimous vote, the Council opted to vote on putting items on future agendas instead of relying on Council consensus.
Additionally, Council Member Kathy Watanabe requested another noise monitor be placed along Aberdeen Drive in light of complaints from neighbors near the airport. The Council unanimously approved the request.
Consent Calendar Spending
The Council also approved spending via the consent calendar:
- A $452,353 contract with HSQ Technology to upgrade the SCADA system used to monitor and control Water, Sewer, and Storm Infrastructure
- A $815,000 contract with NCPA Support Services Agreement Efficiency Services Group, LLC to provide the commercial refrigeration direct install program until June 30, 2021
The Council meets again Tuesday, Dec. 10 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.