Sanitation crews hear dept. plans from city officials

Published 6:00 am Thursday, January 23, 2003

Brookhaven officials complimented sanitation departmentemployees Wednesday, but also warned that the employees will playan integral role in leading the city out of its solid wastetroubles.

Mayor Bill Godbold, City Attorney Joe Fernald and Aldermen TomSmith and John E. “Buddy” Allen informed solid waste departmentemployees of a reorganization plan adopted during Tuesday’s cityboard meeting. Smith and Allen, along with Bob Massengill, weremembers of an aldermen subcommittee that recommended thechanges.

The plan divides department employees into two areas, one fortrash pick up and another for garbage service, and divides the cityinto four areas for trash collection. Garbage pick up service planswere not changed.

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As the city struggles to find a solution to deficit solid wasteoperations, Fernald said citizens will be paying close attention toactivities following the reorganization. He likened the solid wasteemployees to police in the level of public visibility.

“You’ll need to be moving through the areas, because people willbe watching,” said Fernald, urging employees to be attentive totheir collection duties.

Fernald mentioned an upcoming new city employee handbook thatwill state city policies. The handbook, expected to be ready inabout 20 days, will also identify the chain of command foremployees wanting to pursue grievances.

“We want the chain of command respected,” said Fernald,mentioning the possibility of employee termination for violation ofthat chain.

Fernald said there was only one other option if the changes,scheduled to take effect Feb. 1, do not produce the desiredresults. The attorney refused to discuss or even identify thepossibility of privatization of services.

“We don’t want to go there if we don’t have to,” Fernald said,mentioning that Brookhaven is one of the few communities in thestate still trying to operate its own sanitation service.

Fernald said solid waste service will be an importantconsideration as the city pursues annexation. He said the city willhave to show that it can handle solid waste duties in the expandedcity area.

“It’s imperative that everyone take this seriously,” Fernaldsaid.

Most solid waste employees said nothing during the shortWednesday afternoon meeting. A few expressed concerns aboutequipment maintenance and citizen complaint regarding jobperformance.

One employee said people were putting their garbage out late andthen complaining that it was not picked up. Employees wereencouraged to document their activities in an area in case there isa question.

“We want to be able to defend you when you’re doing your job,”Fernald said.

Fernald also mentioned a role that citizens will have to play inadhering to new garbage and trash regulations. He said citizens hadbeen “spoiled” for the last 15 years and that will no longer bepossible given the current circumstances.

“There’s got to be some help from the electorate,” Fernaldsaid.

Regarding equipment, officials said the city does not haveunlimited funds for repairs. They said employees will have to dothe best they can in keeping equipment in working order, and theywere hopeful the upcoming changes would result in a betterfinancial position for the department.

“We want to get things back up to snuff, where it’s supposed tobe, like it used to be,” Godbold said.

For the most part, Godbold said, city employees were doing agood job. However, he expressed concerns about some employees nottaking care of department vehicles.

Smith said officials were not “picking on” or singling out solidwaste employees, but the current situation required some changes toimprove department operations.

“We’re just trying to get the job done,” Smith said.