Private garbage proposals show possible savings

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Brookhaven aldermen are studying garbage collectionprivatization proposals that could save the city as much as$400,000 over five years.

“The bids came in real good for what we want to do,” solid wasteconsultant Butch Lambert told city officials during Tuesday’s boardmeeting.

In considering privatization proposals, the city sought costsfor maintaining twice-a-week garbage collection and once-a-weekservice. The request for proposals also sought projected costs forpicking up garbage and trash separately and co-mingling those itemsfor pick up.

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Projections ranged from $9.59 per household for once-a-weekco-mingled pick up, to $10.84 per household for twice-a-weekco-mingled pick up. Under separate trash and garbage collectionoptions, a rubbish collection and disposal fee would add $4 a monthto service costs.

Lambert said the city can privatize and pay for city-operatedcollection services without having to raise the current $12 a monthfee.

“We’re in good shape there,” Lambert said.

Lambert recommended the city keep handling customer billingservices. He said that would allow the city to maintain a strongposition for collecting the fees.

“You have ways that you can collect your money that countiesdon’t have,” Lambert said, referring to the city’s ability to cutoff a customer’s water for non-payment.

Depending on the option chosen, Lambert said the privatizationcould save the city $400,000 over a five-year period. While BFI didnot bid on most of the privatization proposals, Lambert said WasteManagement did an excellent job in preparing its bid.

Lambert said the bids are good for 120 days, which would givethe board until March to decide on a course of action. He addedthat Waste Management could be in operation in about 30 days aftera privatization decision is made.

Lambert acknowledged some recent cost-saving measures by thecity in the solid waste area. However, he stressed that theoperation would have to become more efficient if the board electsto continue running the garbage services.

“You have do things differently than what you’re doing now,”Lambert said.

According to city records, solid waste operations have lost justover $38,000 so far in fiscal year 2004.

Deteriorating equipment is one area of concern Lambertmentioned. He said the city is playing “Russian Roulette” with itsgarbage trucks and their poor state of repair.

“You can’t stay like you’re doing at this money,” Lambertsaid.

For trash pick up, Lambert said he would recommend leaves bebagged, although the city could maintain trash services and notrequire that to be done. Cutting discarded limbs should be theresponsibility of tree surgeons who handle tree-cutting forhomeowners, Lambert said.

Ward Three Aldermen the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson questioned whatwould happen to city solid waste workers should privatizationoccur. Lambert said Waste Management would give first preference tocity employees, but they would have to pass a drug test andphysical.

In other garbage-related matter, Lambert discussed possible cityplans to develop a landfill for taking in garbage from the city,county and other areas. Lambert said the city would need apro-forma business plan examining potential revenue andexpenditures, but he saw some merit in the landfillpossibility.

“I think it would be prudent on your part to look at it,”Lambert said.

City officials have discussed purchasing land near the oldlandfill on County Farm Road. Lambert suggested 50-60 acres for thenew landfill.

Lambert said it would take him a few weeks to make a proposal tohelp the city develop a long-term business plan for the landfill.The plan would include a phased approach to the project and Lamberthelping negotiate the land purchase.

“It would give you a road map for the future,” Lambert said.

Lambert said a rule of thumb for developing a landfill would be$250,000 to $300,000 an acre; however, he believed the Brookhavenlandfill could be developed for around $100,000 an acre.

“There’s not been many new landfills done,” Lambert said.

Mayor Bill Godbold said operating the landfill could be amoney-making venture for the city.

A timetable Lambert presented Tuesday projected a landfillstarting operations in late 2008. Landfill development wouldinvolve an extensive process including permit procurement, publichearings and finally construction.

Aldermen did not make any solid waste decisions Tuesday. Lambertwas expected to return at the Jan. 6 meeting for further discussionof solid waste issues.