• 54°

Solid waste operations deliver more bad news

While a private company works to improve garbage pick upefficiency, city leaders are dealing with more bad news involvingsolid waste operations.

Willie Smith, trash department superintendent, told aldermenlast night that the city has approximately six months of life leftat the city’s rubbish site at the old landfill. A document sent tothe state Department of Environmental Quality earlier this yearestimated over seven years of life left, but Smith said that wasnot the case.

“If we have a storm, we don’t have six months,” said Smith,alluding to increased materials that would have to go to thesite.

Later in the meeting, aldermen went into executive session withSmith and City Engineer Carl Ray Furr for reasons of possiblelitigation.

Furr described as “sabre rattling” DEQ concerns about anineffective regional solid waste authority and the rubbish siteissue. The city could face fines of up to $25,000 per incident forviolations.

Smith said the city operates two rubbish sites at the oldlandfill. Rubbish site 1, which is running out of space, takesmixed trash items while rubbish site 2 is only for leaves andlimbs.

“We’re not enforcing our ordinances,” Smith said, referring tocity laws that require garbage and trash to be separated.

If the city runs out of room at the rubbish site, Smith said thetrash would either have to go through the transer station and becounted as garbage or would have to be sent to a rubbish siteelsewhere.

Smith said he lacked the manpower to pick up mixed trash andclean trash separately. Therefore, most of the trash is going tothe rubbish site 1.

“If they tell me to pick up the stuff that’s not contaminated,we’ve got a lot of room,” Smith said.

Regarding manpower, aldermen balked at a Smith request to addfour employees to the department. The department now operates withseven, although officials cited missed days that keep the operationfrom being at full strength.

“If we add four people to that department, we’re going to be inthe red right off the bat,” said Ward Four Alderman Bob Massengill,referring to city efforts to keep the struggling operationfinancially solvent.

There was a suggestion to borrow employees from otherdepartments for trash pick up services. However, there were somelegal questions raised about that and concerns about work in otherdepartments going undone while attending to the trash.

Smith said his operation is about two and a half days behindschedule.

“We can continue like we’re going, but we’re not going to be oneday in a certain area,” Smith said.

In a trash equipment matter, mayoral assistant Jimmy Furlowupdated aldermen on the cost of repairing or buying a new dozer forthe landfill.

New dozers were estimated at $170,000 and $210,000 whilerepairing the under carriage on the current one would cost $13,180.Due to the uncertain trash operation future, Furlow recommended therepair.

“I can’t see us buying a new dozer and getting out of the trashbusiness,” Furlow said.

When going to private service, aldermen voted to keep trashoperations and not raise the $12 a month garbage fee. Massengillindicated that aldermen may need to take another look at thesituation.

“If it doesn’t work, we’re going to have to do something else,”he said.

With questions about the private garbage house count and trashconcerns, Mayor Pro Tem Terry Bates suggested that rates would haveto be raised.

“That’s the only way. The users are going to have to pay forit…” Bates said. “How are we going to clean up the city? We’vegot to have money.”

Following the closed-door executive session, aldermen scheduleda work session for 9 a.m. April 13. At that meeting, aldermen andsupervisors will discuss the regional solid waste authoritysituation.

Aldermen are also planning a special meeting for April 13 at 6p.m. to discuss the garbage and trash situation. Massengillencouraged board members to be prepared to discuss the situation inmore detail that night.

“This is a major subject,” Massengill said. “I think the peopleare looking to us to come up with a solution.”