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Private company to handle city’s garbage pick up

After months of study and another closed-door discussion Tuesdaynight, Brookhaven aldermen have voted to privatize garbagecollection but maintain city-run trash services.

“That wasn’t so hard,” said Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameronafter the unanimous board vote following an execution session,called for pending litigation reasons related to the city’sannexation trial.

The proposal adopted Tuesday calls for Waste Management to beginprivate garbage services around March 1. Residential garbagecollection will continue to be done twice a week.

Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner, who seconded Cameron’s motion,said the move was an effort to hold down expenses and cutcosts.

“We felt like this was the best decision,” Bumgarner said.

To maintain city-run services, Bumgarner said it was estimatedthat the city’s garbage fee would have had to been raised from thecurrent $12 a month to $22 a month.

“We didn’t think that was an option,” Bumgarner said.

The privatization proposal approved last night varied from solidwaste consultant Butch Lambert’s recommendation to privatize bothgarbage and trash services. The alternate proposal approved was onerequested by Cameron following the board’s Jan. 6 meeting.

“We just want to take one phase at a time,” Cameron said. “Wefeel like we can better serve the citizens by keeping thetrash.”

Following the meeting, Lambert said the privatizationrecommendation was based on the city’s current garbage costs, cashflow and fee structure. Alluding to the potential for over$646,8000 in savings during the current fiscal year, Lambert wasoptimistic the city can successfully operate trash collectionservices.

“We feel like we can run the trash and rubbish on thedifference,” Lambert said.

The city will maintain and evaluate trash collection operationsduring the approximately two-and-a-half year contract period.Lambert said there is an option for a three-year renewal.

The contract was timed to coincide with the city’s and county’scontract for private operation of the transfer station. The citymaintains a rubbish field near the transfer station for disposal oftrash.

For its services, Waste Management will charge the city $9.95per household. The city will continue to handle billing servicesfor the garbage fees, which are now paid through water bills.

“We would never give that up,” Lambert said.

In voting to privatize, City Attorney Joe Fernald said the boardwas trying to balance its fiscal responsibility with the humancosts. The move affects approximately 18 solid waste employees.

“Hopefully, they’ll all be able to be placed some place else orin the trash business,” Fernald said.

Lambert said he and city officials would be sorting outpersonnel, trash collection and other issues in preparation for thechangeover. Also, Waste Management will be compiling a house countand handling other start-up issues.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done between now andMarch 1,” Lambert said.

Public education on trash collection issues is another item tobe addressed before the changeover.

Lambert said the city now has trash-related ordinances that arenot being enforced. He and Fernald said a successful trashcollection operation will depend on better enforcement, betterbusiness management and more efficiency.

“We’re confident that can be done,” Fernald said.

Lambert said he and city officials would be looking at trashordinances in the near future to determine what, if any, changesare needed.

“We need to take a good inventory now knowing what they want todo,” Lambert said.

Lambert said the city’s goal is not to have to raise the current$12 a month fee for garbage collection. He said that will be atwo-way street between the city and its citizens.

“Citizens will need to help us out for us to control the $12fee,” said Lambert, calling for a partnership between the twogroups. “The more they cooperate, the less cost increase they’llhave in the future.”

Still on the table to be decided is a proposal for the city topurchase land, develop and operate a landfill.

“They didn’t take that up,” said Lambert, adding that the boardis expected to discuss it at its next meeting.

Regarding a landfill, Lambert said his recommendation is todevelop a solid waste business plan that would look at short-termand long-term operational costs. He said the landfill could bedeveloped in phases to match the city’s cash flow with its savingsfrom privatization.

“The city nees to be able to pay its way. We’re developing a wayto do that,” Lambert said.