Board backs off garbage fee increase

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Brookhaven aldermen have delayed indefinitely a proposal toincrease monthly garbage fees by $1.50, but the board approvedseveral other recommendations regarding the city’s trashdepartment.

In a special meeting called Tuesday by aldermen, the boardadopted most of the trash-related recommendations developed by asubcommittee as the city prepares to switch to private garbageservices next week. Some specific decisions regarding therecommendations have not been made.

“We’ve got a lot to do and not much time to do it,” said WardFour Alderman Bob Massengill in discussing the need for lastnight’s meeting.

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Questions about how the city will pay for needed trashdepartment equipment and the personnel who would be displaced dueto privatization were main topics of discussion.

Regarding the purchase of two leaf machines and a wood chipper,Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner suggested those equipment purchasesbe removed from the solid waste budget and purchased by the streetdepartment. That move, plus other funds not accounted for in abudget review presented last night, would allow the board to avoidraising the garbage fee to $13.50 a month.

“All I’m trying to do is keep the rate from going up,” saidBumgarner, adding that the city could use the equipment however itchooses.

There was some question, though, whether the solid wastedepartment could legally use equipment purchased by anotherdepartment. The solid waste budget is to be separate from othercity budgets.

Ward Five Alderman Tom Smith said he had heard no complaintsabout the proposed garbage fee increase.

A budget review prepared by Massengill did not include revenuefrom the sale of old equipment or revenue from swacar rentals.Aldermen indicated that money could possibly offset the $54,000that was expected from the fee increase.

The board agreed to have the new equipment lease-purchase fromthe trash department budget. That equipment is estimated to costapproximately $36,600 a year over two years.

Massengill said he could support delaying the fee increase.However, he stressed that the trash department will have to operateefficiently, and the board would have to monitor expendituresclosely.

“If we start seeing it get in a hole, we’ve got to deal withit,” Massengill said.

Aldermen discussed delaying the fee increase until 90 days afterthe trash department has its new equipment or by other timeperiods. They ultimately decided to postpone it indefinitely andvote to raise it when needed.

“We’ll keep a close eye on it every month,” said Ward SixAlderman John E. “Buddy” Allen.

Allen presided at last night’s meeting due the absence of MayorBill Godbold and Mayor Pro Tem Terry Bates, alderman of Ward Two.City officials said Godbold had a prior commitment out of town andBates works nights.

Personnel issues were also discussed Tuesday.

Massengill questioned what will happen Monday to garbagedepartment employees who are not retained for the trash department.Officials said they will still have jobs, and it would be up tosupervisors in other departments to put them to work.

“There will be nobody let go until this board says they’re letgo,” said City Clerk Iris Rudman-Smith.

City Attorney Joe Fernald said the personnel issue is theboard’s biggest concern.

“You’ve got some significant problems to deal with,” Fernaldsaid.

Aldermen approved the subcommittee’s modified trashrecommendation in a 4-0 vote.

As presiding officer, Allen did not vote and new Ward ThreeAlderwoman Mary Wilson abstained. Wilson said she would like tohave more information before making a decision.

The plan approved calls for Willie Smith to oversee trashoperations, with one person stationed at the landfill and sixemployees handling trash pick up duties.

Smith would be allowed to choose the six trash pick upemployees. The board retained the authority in deciding whetherlong-time Sanitation Department – Garbage Superintendent James”Peanut” Arnold will be the employee assigned to the landfill.

Following approval of the recommendations, the board agreed tohave the subcommittee of Massengill, Bates and Ward One AldermanDorsey Cameron consult with Godbold as soon as possible and gaugehis support. The mayor, who has day-to-day supervision over cityoperations, can veto a board action within 10 days after meetingminutes are prepared.

If the mayor supports the plan, aldermen agreed to move forwardwith its implementation.

That would include personnel decisions, advertising for the newequipment and developing a brochure to inform customers about newregulations and the separation of garbage and trash. Since ditchcleaning would be a street department function, a recommendationregarding that activity was removed from the solid wasteaction.

The brochure will define the difference between garbage andtrash, which aldermen have begun to call rubbish.

In general, garbage is household waste, while trash or rubbishis yard items like leaves, limbs and pine straw. The newregulations say garbage and rubbish cannot be commingled and mustbe separated.

Massengill said more information about garbage and rubbish willaid in citizens’ understanding and cooperation.

“If they know what to expect, I think they’ll cooperate,”Massengill said.