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TRASH RATE HIKE HELD INCREASE DELAYED UNTIL AUDIT IS DONE.

Byline: Heather MacDonald Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - One of the city's waste haulers has decided to hold off on raising rates by 60 cents, despite an eight-month delay in executing an already-approved contract.

In a letter to City Manager George Caravalho, Santa Clarita/Blue Barrel Disposal Co. agreed to defer the cost-of-living increase that was set to go into effect Tuesday until the city completes its audit of the local trash haulers and franchise agreements.

``It is a sign of good faith, and a leap of faith that this audit is legitimate and not a witch hunt,'' said John P. Newell, a lawyer for Blue Barrel's parent company, Waste Management.

The City Council put off executing the extension of the franchise agreement after it ordered the audit because of concerns that Santa Clarita residents were being overcharged by the trash haulers, and to make sure the city staff, under the direction of Caravalho, negotiated the best deal possible.

``It would be premature for us to raise rates,'' said Blue Barrel General Manager Karl McCarthy. ``We're confident that the audit won't show anything.''

Santa Clarita residents pay $22.13 a month for trash pickup and recycling services, which is among the highest rates in the Los Angeles area. A hike would end a price freeze that has been in place since 1996.

In November, Blue Barrel said it planned to institute the hike unless the City Council began finalizing the contract, which was approved in March by a vote of 4-1.

However, the council decided to take no action on the contracts until accounting firm Ernst & Young completes the audit at the end of the month, and asked Blue Barrel to defer the price hike.

During the next week, auditors will update council members, said Councilman Cameron Smyth.

The City Council ordered the audit at a meeting called by former Mayor Laurene Weste, the lone dissenter in the vote on the franchise extension, to consider firing Caravalho. He was retained in a unanimous vote.

Matt Terrell, general manager of the city's other trash hauler, Atlas/Consolidated Disposal Service, said in November that the company was considering raising rates. He did not return a phone message left Thursday.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 4, 2002
Words:366
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