Solid waste woes far from resolved

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Brookhaven officials are eyeing funds from a $1 million Wal-Martbond repayment as a way to buy equipment and to provide “modest”pay raises in the city’s struggling solid waste department.

A no-frills solid waste spending plan discussed during a Tuesdaywork session had a new budget of $1,178,879 for the new year thatstarts Oct. 1. With additional money from a new commercial garbageschedule passed earlier this year, new year revenue was projectedat $1,169,623.

“If we make it, we’ll barely make it,” said City Clerk IrisRudman about that budget scenario.

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However, that budget includes nothing for solid waste employeepay raises or new equipment. City officials said solid wasteemployees should be included in any pay raise plans, and SolidWaste Superintendent James Arnold needs new equipment.

“He needs it bad,” Rudman said.

With that, officials turned their attention to $1 million thatthe city received earlier this year from Wal-Mart as repayment of abond done when the distribution center located here.

One figure mentioned last night was $300,000. Solid wasteequipment and vehicle requests include a new dozer, four newgarbage trailers, two power saws, a loader, a new garbage truck andtwo trash trucks.

Rudman mentioned the need to repay the Wal-Mart account if fundsare borrowed from it. With solid waste revenue this year runningabout $42,000 behind, officials were doubtful of repaymentpossibilities.

“We can borrow it but we can’t pay it back,” said Ward 1Alderman Dorsey Cameron.

Officials have already used approximately $90,000 this year topurchase two new garbage trucks. Rudman said $500,000 is obligatedas collateral for notes that the city is currently paying.

Ward 3 Alderman the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson expressed concernsabout public reaction to the city’s using some of the Wal-Martmoney.

Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner was vocal in his opposition tohis plan.

“I think we ought to hold onto it as long as we can,” Bumgarnersaid.

Mentioning the possibility of losing some of the solid wastedepartment’s 30 employees through attrition, Bumgarner said thecity needed to set a budget and live within it.

“You’ve got to stop somewhere,” Bumgarner said.

The discussion soon turned to legislative changes several yearsago that require solid waste operations to be self-supportingthrough a small property tax levy and user fees. In previous years,the city was subsidizing the solid waste operation with funds fromelsewhere.

“They’ve put constraints on us that make it almost impossible tolive with,” said Ward 4 Alderman Bob Massengill about the fundingsource changes.

Mayor Bill Godbold suggested a special fee for people who missedthe regular garbage pick up and call in to request it be picked uplater.

“A lot of people would pay it to get it up,” the mayor said.

There were hints of the possibility of privatization. ButGodbold said once the city leaves the business, it can never getback in it.

Massengill referred to recommendations made several months agoby solid waste consultant Butch Lambert.

Massengill said Lambert recommended the city develop moreefficient garbage routes, abandon its separate pick up for garbageand trash, and reduce the number solid waste employees to eight orless. Other aldermen scoffed at the prospect of fewer employeesbeing able to do the job, and Godbold said pick up service wasbehind now.

City Attorney Joe Fernald said the board would sooner or laterhave to make a decision on the overall solid waste situation. Hesaid the city could not operate in a “vacuum” of continually risingsolid waste expenses and revenue that is not keeping up with thecosts.

“The market our there is killing us,” Fernald said.