Washoe District Judge Peter Breen has ruled local governments can't lock out independent construction-waste haulers by signing a master contract with a sanitation company.
Reno lawyer Treva Hearne said the ruling is important to construction companies because it lets them hire private contractors who can do a better job of serving their waste removal needs at a lower price.
Independent Sanitation, a subsidiary in the corporation which operates the Lockwood landfill, sued saying it has exclusive rights to haul all types of waste including construction waste in Incline Village because of its franchise agreement with the Incline Village General Improvement District.
Empire has contracts with several builders in the north Tahoe area to pick up and haul construction waste which has no garbage or biological products in it.
Breen ruled the agreement was exclusive regarding collection of garbage and potentially hazardous materials such as biological waste. But he said the contract doesn't extend to other waste types.
"Neither IVGID nor the plaintiff has presented any evidence that the collection and disposal of construction waste at issue in this case presents any health or safety hazard," Breen stated in his order. "Therefore, the court finds that there is no reason that would justify the enforcement of the exclusive franchise agreement (by applying it to construction waste)."
Hearne said this is the first decision on the subject but that there are four cases in northern Nevada involving the same issues.
She said although it was the waste company which sued, the real battle is between local jurisdictions such as the improvement district which sign exclusive franchise contracts for waste removal and the contractors building new homes and businesses.
She said cities and counties oppose allowing private haulers to move construction waste those private companies don't pay franchise fees on each load.
"This is a way local agencies are making money because they charge franchise fees to pick up the waste," she said.
She said that may be important with biological and other potentially hazardous wastes but that construction waste is different.
She said contractors have other reasons for using private haulers as well -- primarily that they will pick up a load when the contractor wants rather than on a set schedule.
"This waste is a huge problem for contractors," she said. "But this ruling goes a long way toward helping them."
It wasn't known whether Independent Sanitation planned to appeal.