County votes to renegotiate garbage contract

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; After hearing from residents whose garbage is piling up, county supervisors voted Monday to renegotiate the county’s garbage pick-up contract.

In late April, supervisors voted to switch to a different garbage contract under which the county’s 5,531 customers would get their garbage picked up once a week instead of twice.

At the time, the board voted to accept Preferred Transport’s low bid of $263,497 a year for once-a-week garbage, limb and leaf pick-up. Unless it is renegotiated, the contract is in force for five years.

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Waste Management, which had had the county’s contract for several years, charged $423,453 a year for twice-a-week pick-up of garbage.

That change, some supervisors said, would save the cash-strapped county an estimated $126,771 a year.

But garbage customers surveyed since the change took effect June 1 have said once-a-week pickup isn’t sufficient to meet their needs, said supervisors President Lynwood Easterling.

Board attorney Marion Smith said he believes the contract could legally be renegotiated because it can be argued that the piling up of garbage constitutes a public health hazard.

On Monday, Louis Jones, co-owner of Preferring Transport, declined to comment until he could speak to supervisors personally. Although the rate is subject to negotiations, Easterling said following Monday’s meeting that the rate could rise to $10 per household if the county goes to twice-a-week pickup.

At the current rate of $8.50 per household times 5,531 households, the county will take in $564,162 a year. That number would jump to $663,720 with a $10 rate.

In addition to the actual cost of garbage pickup &045; &uot;which is still being negotiated,&uot; said County Administrator Charlie Brown &045; the county must pay out of those funds $175,000 a year in tipping fees to the Plantation Oaks Landfill. It must also pay $128,000 to maintain two trash convenience stations and $64,000 for office and clerical expenses for the Sanitation Department.

&uot;It looks like we’re making a lot of money, but I can promise you we aren’t,&uot; Easterling said.

In fact, supervisors said during their discussion of garbage bids in April that the county has subsidized the cost of garbage service for many years.

Easterling said &uot;the wishes of the people&uot; &045; and not upcoming run-off election &045; was the reason for his offering a motion to resume negotiations. Since all five supervisors voted for the motion, &uot;that shows it reflects the whole board,&uot; he said.

Supervisors said they have heard from constituents whose garbage is piling high outside their houses. Dogs and cats get to the garbage before the trash man does, said supervisor Thomas &uot;Boo&uot; Campbell.

&uot;The ones I’ve talked to have said they’re willing to pay two or three dollars more to get (garbage) picked up twice a week,&uot; Campbell said.

&uot;Several of those I’ve talked to said they wouldn’t mind paying more, either,&uot; said supervisors Vice President Darryl Grennell.

However, Supervisor Virginia Salmon said she would like to see a survey done of customers to see whether they would be willing to absorb the cost as part of their garbage bills.

&uot;I just don’t want to see it added to the taxes&uot; of county residents, said Supervisor Sammy Cauthen.

Later in the discussion, Easterling said that both Waste Management and Preferred Transport had said that most Mississippi counties only had one-day-a-week garbage service.

&uot;If they’re the ones that said it, Š I would question the validity of it,&uot; Grennell said.

However, Easterling said he also called 30 counties himself and got the same answer. County Administrator Charlie Brown said he called several counties, &uot;and 95 percent of them had one-day-a-week garbage pickup.&uot;

In any case, Brown said, renegotiation of Adams County’s garbage contract must be done quickly. &uot;We’ve got to firm it up by budget time,&uot; he said.

The county’s next fiscal year starts Oct. 1, with budget meetings taking place this month and in September.