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Missed trash will cost Waste Pro

Richard Lachney wants his money back.

The 74-year-old resident of Cotton Lane in northeast Lincoln County asked for a refund from the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors on Monday, saying that county trash collection company Waste Pro will take the garbage from the end of his driveway a week here, and maybe a couple of weeks there, but mostly the green and white trucks ignore his home out there among the cutovers and planted pines. Most weeks he picks up his own garbage, taking it to the District 2 barn near the airport for disposal.

He still has to pay his garbage bill.

“It’s like having a contractor once a week to cut your grass, and he never shows up but you keep paying him,” Lachney said. “Why should I pay $42 for the next three months? I think it’s an unbalanced scale here. I’m a poor man, on a fixed income.”

Supervisors agree.

Following Lachney’s complaint, the board instructed county administrator David Fields to delay mailing off an $84,290 check to Waste Pro for trash collection in June until supervisors devise a fair system for deducting missed pickups from the company’s contracted price. The county owes Waste Pro more than $337,000 for June, July, August and September, and board attorney Bob Allen said the law doesn’t allow the board to simply stop paying.

But if the company is only doing part of the job, supervisors plan to pay part of the bill.

Lincoln County Tax Collector Blake Pickering showed Lachney and the board a 4-inch stack of papers cataloguing 700 addresses Waste Pro has missed in the last 30 days, and supervisors had their own hand-written notes of roads and addresses where they had to take a truck, trailer and hired hands to pick up garbage from citizens who’d been passed over. Word around the board was that Waste Pro drivers were dropping out early, leaving to take new jobs ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline when their company’s contract ends and Arrow Disposal Service Inc. takes over trash collection for the next three years.

“Solid waste has gotten to the point of being beyond ridiculous,” said Pickering, whose office operates the county’s missed garbage pickup hotline. “They’re not doing anything at this point. They’re not missing little roads, they’re missing Zetus, 550 and Arlington.”

But Waste Pro is under contract for another 10 weeks, and supervisors are making plans to handle garbage pickup in case the company pulls out entirely.

“We gotta do what we gotta do,” said District 5 Supervisor Doug Falvey. “We can’t just leave the people stranded out there.”

The first thing supervisors will do is ask their new company for help. They’ve already set up a special called meeting with Jimmie Moore, ADSI’s vice president of governmental and public affairs July 18 at 10 a.m. They expect to sign ADSI’s new contract at that meeting, and it’s likely they’ll ask the company about taking over for Waste Pro before the contract’s Oct. 1 start date.

The board can void the remainder of Waste Pro’s contract if ADSI comes to the rescue, but Moore has said previously it will take time for ADSI to get established in Lincoln County.

Otherwise, supervisors could be stuck slinging Waste Pro’s leavings. Falvey said he collected more than 6,000 pounds of missed garbage from 10 roads in his district on Saturday, and supervisors are worried it will get worse.

“I ain’t got the manpower for that,” said District 3 Supervisor Nolan Earl Williamson. “All I got is six men. Do we want to stop spreading asphalt to pick up trash, when you’ve got a contractor that’s supposed to pick it up? I’d have to shut maintenance down if we have to do that. There’s no other way around it.”

District 4 Supervisor Eddie Brown asked about using inmates on garbage routes, but Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said state law changed to bar the use of county inmates for trash collection after an inmate working the back of a garbage truck was struck by a vehicle and killed in George County last summer.

“You can’t put them on a garbage truck,” he said.

If supervisors get stuck with more garbage routes, they could get an assist from the City of Brookhaven.

Brookhaven Public Works Director Keith Lewis sat in on Monday’s meeting to see how supervisors dealt with Waste Pro — the city is also experiencing high numbers of missed trash pickups, he said — and offered to lend the county a few of the grapple boom-equipped trailers the city uses for debris collection. Supervisors could use their heavy trucks to pull the trailers, and the city has a specialized truck that can dump the trailers when full.

Supervisors briefly discussed offering refunds on garbage bills, but dumped the idea as impractical. They have no way to verify whose garbage was missed and whose wasn’t, and with supervisors taking up Waste Pro’s slack, garbage is still being collected, even if late.

A countywide refund could also bankrupt the solid waste fund — Pickering said a credit could cost more than $350,000.