Board overrides mayor’s veto of garbage plan

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Brookhaven aldermen Tuesday voted to override Mayor BillGodbold’s veto of their decision to award a private garbagecollection contract to Waste Management.

In choosing to move forward with private garbage pick up plans,the board rejected a Godbold proposal that would have tied highergarbage fees to water usage. The board vote on the override was5-1, with Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates supporting the mayor andhis veto.

At their Jan. 20 meeting, aldermen voted unanimously to haveWaste Management begin garbage pick up on March 1 at a cost of$9.95 per household. The city would maintain trash pick upservices.

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“We thought it would be best to keep the trash portion so wecould give, what we thought, was better service to our citizens,”said Ward Four Alderman Bob Massengill.

Massengill said the board’s belief was that the switch could bemade, and the current $12 a month garbage fee would not have to beraised. Alluding to the possibility of bagging leaves and pinestraw and cutting limbs to a certain length, he added that the planwould ask citizens “to cooperate in every way they can” in keepingcollection costs down.

Massengill’s comments came after Godbold presented his proposalon fixing financial problems in the city’s solid wasteoperation.

The mayor said did not get involved in garbage discussion,adding that he had left that to “the mathematicians and legalminds.” However, Godbold said the plan approved by the board didnot take in consideration the working man or poor people.

Godbold then went over two options for raising garbage fees inrelation to water usage.

One option would have increased the fee to $17 for less than5,000 gallons of water used a month and to $22 for usage over thatamount. A second option would have raised the fee to $19 a monthfor under 5,000 gallons and to $25 for over 5,000.

“That’s fair and does not designate any group,” Godbold said,referring to customers’ ability to pay higher rates.

The mayor said the proposal would put the city “in the park” toraise enough money to buy needed equipment, pay city employees andto maintain city-run garbage and trash services. He also signaledthat no increases would be needed later.

“We won’t have to come back unless something dreadful happens,”Godbold said.

Solid Waste consultant Butch Lambert recalled an Attorney’sGeneral’s opinion stating that different people could not becharged different rates. He said the mayor’s proposal to link ratesto volume could pass muster, but that would have to be checkedout.

In discussing the mayor’s plan, Bates said the city cannot getaround the cost of garbage services.

“Everybody’s not going to be happy with it,” Bates said. “Theydon’t want us to privatize, and they don’t want us to go up.”

Godbold said he has heard support for raising garbage rates ifnecessary.

“People I’ve heard from said, ‘Go up if you have to, but keepthe garbage and trash (operations),'” the mayor said.

During the discussion, Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron said themayor’s proposal would see garbage rates fluctuate based on waterusage.

Godbold asked Buford Clark, a Waste Management representativewho was in the audience, if the company could guarantee that itsper-household fee would not increase. Lambert and Clark said anyincrease would be tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and thatthere was a 5 percent increase cap over the length of theapproximately 2.5-year contract.

Following a short procedural discussion on how to document theveto in the minutes, aldermen acknowledged the veto and then voted5-1 to override it. Four votes were needed for an override.

In discussing his vote, alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner said hedid not want to raise rates $7 or $8 and then see the city facingthe same financial problems in the near future. He was hopeful thecity could keep trash pick up services, but he indicated that wouldrequire change.

“We have to get more efficient or we’ll lose the trash,”Bumgarner said.

The alderman’s comment followed similar statements fromLambert.

“You’ve got to handle your business better than you’ve handledit in the past,” Lambert said, adding that the bottom line is thecity has too many solid waste employees. “That’s where your mainproblem is.”

Cameron, Bates and Massengill were appointed to a subcommitteeto work with solid waste department leaders James Arnold and WillieSmith to improve efficiency. Bumgarner was initially named to thepanel, but he cited business concerns in refusing theappointment.

Smith, who oversees trash pick up services, said the city hasordinances in place regarding cutting limbs and bagging leaves.However, those laws have not been enforced.

Godbold said citizens had been “ruined” by city services, andBates said the city was being hurt because the laws were not beingenforced.

“We might as well stop babying them,” Bates said.

Bates has long been a proponent of raising garbage fees by asufficient amount in order for the city to pick up garbage andtrash. He supported the mayor’s proposal.

“You need to come up with a price to sweep the city clean,”Bates said. “That’s the only way.”

In addition to efficiency improvements, the subcommittee wasexpected to review a city solid waste business plan and a landfillproposal. The panel would then make a recommendation to the fullboard of aldermen.