Reporter Amanda Baumfeld wrote a very telling piece this weekend about the effects an exclusive trash contract with Athens Services in Montebello could mean for local independent trash haulers.
Apparently, the refuse business goes way back for many Montebello Armenian families:
The 15-year agreement, worth $7.8 million annually, grants Athens exclusive rights to all trash hauling in the city. It phases out contracts with the 13 independent haulers who currently collect trash in commercial areas.
The issue has divided many in the city with trash haulers fighting for a shot at bidding on the same contract that was granted to Athens.
The division stings because Athens’ owners, the Arakelian family, sprang from the same roots.
“This has turned out to be Athens verses these independent haulers,” said Musid Minasian, an Armenian resident. “None of these guys have disrespect towards Athens. Athens is trying to put themselves in front of the Armenian community and they are trying to take someone’s roots away from them.”
The Arakelians did not comment for this story.
The Armenian community’s strong ties to the trash industry began in the early 20th century.
For example, Denise Hagopian, owner of Heavenly Choices, recalled how her grandfather immigrated to Los Angeles in 1906. He worked as a laborer and eventually became a farmer raising hogs and chickens.
“The first rubbish was picking up leftover food from a restaurant to feed to the cattle,” said Hagopian. “They would pick up all the leftovers, that’s how rubbish hauling started.”
Then packaged food began appearing in the early 1940s along with paper plates, plastic silverware and that created more rubbish, said Hagopian.
“Already having a route picking up rubbish, they picked up the next things,” Hagopian said. “It was just a natural progression of business.”
Petrosian, of Commercial Waste Services, says his family businesses started with raising hogs. As a fourth generation resident, he has formed many relationships in the city.
“Our social circle is in Montebello; that’s our community,” Petrosian said. “Me and the rest of the haulers, we all have relatives here and central ties in the city.”
Jack Topalian of Nasa Services said he believes Montebello’s entire economy will suffer if the traditional trash haulers no longer did business in town.
“Just the local business that we do,” Topalian said. “We do a lot with local auto shops, the fuel we purchase; there would definitely be a major trickle down effect that would happen.”
Despite the recent debate, many in the Armenian community remain hopeful that they will be able to stay close to their Montebello roots.
“It’s the most precious thing to the Armenians to maintain their culture,” Hagopian said. “But if you don’t have business in the city you have to move and you lose those bonds that are hundreds of years old. What a terrible thing to lose.”