City to take serious look at private garbage service

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Brookhaven officials appear to be moving closer to privatizationof all city garbage and trash services following comments Tuesdayfrom Mayor Bill Godbold.

Godbold cited difficulties in finding employees with the propercommercial driver’s licenses in suggesting a move towardprivatization during last night’s board meeting. In the past, themayor had resisted the idea privatization, saying that a city-runoperation could provide a more personal service to citizens than aprivate company.

“I’m convinced, since we can’t find employees with the rightlicenses, that we need to put it up for bids,” Godbold said.

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Godbold indicated a private company could be allowed to handleall aspects of the residential garbage operation. City officialsearlier abandoned commercial pick up services due to costconcerns.

Ward 3 Alderman the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson questioned what wouldhappen with solid waste employees, and Godbold said they would beabsorbed into other city departments. The alderman said he would beagainst the move and cited comments about improved services.

“I’m hearing everybody’s doing a good job,” Wilson said.

The city’s solid waste operation has been running at a deficitfor years and officials are looking for answers now that surplusrevenue, which has previously been able to cover shortfalls, isrunning low. Officials last night mentioned some improvement due tooperational changes that have resulted in more efficiency, but theimprovements do not appear to be enough to solve financialdifficulties.

“It’s just a matter of time,” said City Attorney JoeFernald.

Ward 4 Alderman Bob Massengill also mentioned equipmentconcerns.

“Our equipment is playing out, and it appears we’re not makingenough money to replace the equipment that we need to,” Massengillsaid.

Ward 6 Alderman John E. “Buddy” Allen expressed concerns aboutrapidly rising tipping fees. However, bookkeeper Mike Jinks saidthe company that gets the contract would be responsible for payingtipping fees should the city privatize.

“Whatever saves us the most money I’ll have to be in favor of,as long as we don’t lose employees,” Allen said.

Citing a discussion at a recent municipal attorneys conference,Fernald said no cities would be in the garbage services within twoto three years.

“The exodus of municipalities in collection of trash isoverwhelming,” Fernald said.

Regarding the possible switch, Fernald said the sooner the boardacted the easier it would be at budget time to predict a cost forthe services.

Aldermen delayed action until the next board meeting in order tohear from City Clerk Iris Rudman regarding the solid wastefinancial situation. Rudman was unable to attend Tuesday night’smeeting.

In other business Tuesday, aldermen went into executive sessionto discuss water and sanitation department personnelsituations.

Following the session, aldermen approved a promotion and twohirings in the water department and the termination of a solidwaste department employee due to his having been involved in twoaccidents. The vote on the termination was 4-2, with aldermenWilson and Terry Bates opposed.

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