It’s time for change in garbage service

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 22, 2003

Following a presentation by a solid waste consultant last week,Brookhaven aldermen now have a better idea of how much it will costfor the city to privatize its garbage collection services.

Depending on which option is chosen, consultant Butch Lambertsuggested the possibility of saving $400,000 over five yearsthrough privatization. Collection options include maintaining twicea week service or reducing pick up once a week.

Barring any “unseen costs,” which city officials triedunsuccessfully to find during the board discussion, privatizationof garbage services would seem to be a “no-brainer” decision foraldermen.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Even if the significant savings aren’t realized and privateservice becomes a break-even proposition for the city,privatization still makes good business sense. With city-runservices since the start of fiscal year 2004 on Oct. 1, the cityhas spent $38,000 more than it has taken in fees for garbagecollection.

Another factor to consider, as Lambert pointed out, is agingequipment that is in need of repair or replacement. That meansspending money — additional money that the city’s solid wasteoperation is currently not producing.

And let’s not forget employee costs. With user fees and a smalltax levy the only revenue options, it seems unlikely that the citycan continue to cover rising solid waste employee costs such ashealth insurance and pay raises when they are given.

Unless, of course, the board wants to consider raising garbagefees by a considerable amount to cover costs. That politicallyunpopular option has received the cold shoulder from most aldermenand has been left at the curb.

The options left then are to make the solid waste operations runmore efficiently, which Lambert said must be done if the city is tostay in the garbage collection business, or to privatize theservice.

While privatization may mean some adjustments for citizens –such as getting their garbage to the curb on time for collection –the prospect of getting comparable service without having to raisefees is the preferred course of action.

Aldermen should move quickly toward privatization before morecity money is thrown away through city-run service.