As sanitation costs balloon, county continues looking at trash service options

Published 9:30 am Thursday, March 23, 2023

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Troup County is mulling over the idea of major changes to the way it handles garbage, including switching to curbside pickup, a pay-as-you-throw model or reducing the number of convenience centers.

Public Services Director Dexter Wells provided an update to the Board of Commissioners during their meeting on Tuesday night.

The county has been considering a significant overhaul of sanitation due to rising costs to collect, transport and dispose of residential and commercial trash.

Wells said the total operating budget for sanitation in 2017 was $411,737. By FY2023, the costs had spiked to $1,792,701.

“That’s a 311.25% increase over those six years. That’s quite an increase in sanitation,” Wells said.

The first big increase came when the City of LaGrange dropped commercial sanitation and in turn stopped hauling garbage for the county.

Commission Chairman Patrick Crews noted that the county had been paying LaGrange $27 per load of garbage, which included transport. The next year the lowest commercial service bid they received was about $125 per load.

Since then, the county has been hauling its own trash, but as fuel costs increase and tonnage fees increase, doing so has increased every year.

Personnel costs have also increased. The largest increase was in truck drivers, who saw an increase of $6,900 per driver. With a shortage of drivers, Wells expects the trend to continue. The county currently wants two additional drivers.

The convenience centers are also expensive to operate. Part-time attendants at each site cost the county about $450,000 in total.

Wells said increased costs from personnel, tipping fees and hauling costs have led to the 2024 operating budget balloon to $1,792,701.

He said they expect the costs to increase a minimum of 3.5 percent each year due to inflation.

“We’re talking about between a $79,000 and $85,000 per year increase and that’s just in operations,” Wells said, noting it does not include capital costs and keeping up equipment.

Wells said they need an additional $1,323,000 for equipment and $500,000 to $800,000 for land improvements because of drainage and layout issues at the convenience sites, making the overall budget request up to $3,915,701.

In November 2022, Wells announced the intention to issue a request for proposals (RFP) on commercial sanitation services to evaluate the county’s options.

The county sought bids on curbside service as well as operating the convenience centers, which are expected to be evaluated in early April.

Wells said the RFP included the ability to keep two or four convenience center sites open to all residents who choose to use them, the ability to pay-as-you-throw, the ability to have sites for citizens to dispose of bulky waste on a pay-as-you-throw basis, the ability for curbside pickup in the unincorporated area, the ability for those with medical needs to have a backdoor pickup, the ability to have more than one can and the ability for citizens to decide what option for their unique circumstances and their families.

“My recommendation would be to sub out the hauling to an outside vendor and allow them to manage the sites,” County Manager Eric Mosley said.

“I think that’s a that’s a good trade-off, where you’ve got multiple options for your citizens.”