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Board seeks new study on private garbage service

Brookhaven officials hope a solid waste consultant’s effortswill shed some light on a way out of the city’s garbage-relatedfinancial woes.

Following an exhaustive discussion at a special board meetingThursday, aldermen asked solid waste consultant Butch Lambert tosubmit a proposal to assist the city in a move toward possibleprivatization of garbage services. Lambert said he could probablydo the work for around $10,000.

If the city is going to spend that much money, some aldermensaid last night, the board needs to be committed to going toprivatization if that is deemed the best course of action.

“We better be real serious about this,” warned Ward 4 AldermanBob Massengill.

Lambert’s work would include developing specifications for aRequest For Proposals from private companies to see what they wouldcharge to pick up city garbage. A final decision on privatizationwould come after the proposals are received.

The RFP could have several options regarding pick up frequency,bagging of pine straw and leaves, and cutting limbs to a certainlengths. Private company costs estimates would be determined by bidspecifications, Lambert said.

“I think it would be money well spent,” said Mayor Bill Godboldabout benefits of Lambert’s work in fixing city garbageproblems.

According to last night’s discussion, the city is charging $12 amonth for residential garbage pick up, yet it is costing $22 amonth per household in personnel costs, disposals fees and othercosts. Godbold speculated it would cost $300,000 or more topurchase much-needed new equipment for the city to continue garbageservices.

“I don’t see how we can stay in it,” the mayor said.

Massengill said he was originally a proponent of privatizationbut now he was not sure. He said citizens would lose personalservice if the city privatized.

Massengill presented an option last night that called for a $3 amonth increase in garbage fees. His plan, which would provide somemoney for equipment purchases, was contingent on reducing employeecosts from $50,000 to $40,000 a month and the city’s garbageoperation becoming much more efficient.

“If we can’t do that, it’s going to be hard for us to stay init,” Massengill said.

Ward 6 Alderman John E. “Buddy” Allen said he would like toconduct a survey to see how residents felt about the garbagesituation.

Lambert said the private company proposals would give an idea ofhow much privatization would cost in comparison to the currentsituation. Once that information is received, he said, it could bepresented to the public for their input.

If the city opts to privatize, Lambert said private servicecould start in about four months under a timetable discussed lastnight. While a number of variables were cited, around $12 a monthper household and possibly less for private service was a figurementioned several times last night.

Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner and others said they wereagainst raising garbage rates, which would be needed in order forthe city to continue running the garbage service.

Bumgarner said the city could take steps to allow city-runservice for another year or so, but eventually it would have to getout of the business. He advocated getting Lambert’s help in theprivatization effort.

“We need to get started so we can make a decision based on allthe facts,” Bumgarner said.