Citizens voice opposition to potential curbside garbage switch
Published 9:00 am Saturday, March 25, 2023
On Thursday evening, the Troup County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing to get feedback from residents on potential major changes to the way the county handles sanitation.
At the previous board meeting Tuesday, the commissioners heard from Public Services Director Dexter Wells on potentially outsourcing sanitation services, which could include moving to curbside pickup or a pay-as-you-throw model.
County Manager Eric Mosley explained that the county’s sanitation costs have dramatically increased over the last five years after the City of LaGrange stopped its commercial sanitation services.
When the city was hauling trash the county’s trash, the sanitation budget was $411,737. Since then the county has had to haul and dispose of its own trash at a greatly increased cost.
This year the county budgeted $1,792,701 to provide sanitation services, which represents a 311% increase over five years. Mosley noted that sanitation went over that budget by $130,000 as costs continue to increase.
County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews said one of the biggest issues is tipping fees. When LaGrange was hauling the garbage, the county was paying $27 per load, which included transport. Now the county is paying $125 just to drop it off at Turkey Run Meriwether County, the nearest landfill that will accept household garbage.
That $125 per load does not include fuel, trucks, employees or equipment, Mosley said.
Mosley said they also have capital cost needs, which are not included in the $1.8 million operating budget. They estimate that $1.3 million is needed for compactors, vehicles, pressure washers, roll-off trucks and other equipment.
In November 2022, the county announced that it would seek bids from private companies for potential options for outsourcing sanitation to avoid a substantial millage rate increase.
“I want to make sure everyone understands that our millage — our sanitation millage rate — is directly related to the expenses and so as we project expenses for the year, that directly correlates to a taxpayer,” Mosley said, providing estimates of tax increases property owners will see if nothing is changed.
The current sanitation millage rate is .637 mills.
For a $175,000 home this year, property owners are paying about a $44.59 sanitation tax bill. Based on the current projections for sanitation expenses, the updated millage would cost that same homeowner $109.41, which is about a $64 increase in their tax bill.
A $250,000 house would see the millage go from $63.70 to $156.29. A $350,000 house would go from $89.18 to $218.81. A $400,000 home would rise from $114.66 to $281.33.
Mosley provided information on four options to move forward and pay for increased sanitation costs.
Option A is to change nothing, which would require an increase to the millage rate of about 1.5 mills, Mosley said. He said the average property owner would see their sanitation taxes double.
Option B would be to close the convenience center and allow citizens to choose their own provider.
“The expense of sanitation would certainly be reduced, therefore the sanitation fund would be removed from taxes and there will be a reduction in taxes for all,” Mosley said.
With Option C, the county would contract with a hauler to provide curbside service and operate the convenience centers. The expense would go to those who utilize sanitation services.
“If you want to have curbside pickup, you would contract with the hauler. If you didn’t want to have curbside pickup, you can do that as well as utilize a pay-as-you-throw program at the convenience centers,” Mosley said.
“Ultimately, if we go with a county contract with a hauler for curbside pickup, there would be no direct cost to the county taxpayer. The citizen would be responsible at that point to contract with that all on themselves,” Mosley said. “Based on just average. we’re looking at probably somewhere from about $20 to $25 a month for curbside pickup.”
The lowest price point quoted for pay-as-you-throw was $5 per bag.
Option D would be for the county will continue to run sanitation and reduce the number of convenience sites and orchestrate a pay-as-you-throw program at those convenience centers.
About 20 residents spoke at the meeting and none expressed interest in moving to curbside pickup or the pay-as-you-throw model. Several residents said they would prefer leaving things the way they are, even if it means taxes going up.
Former math teacher and professor Jewell Albright said it seems to her that it would be less expensive just to pay the tax increase than for curbside service.
Albright said according to her math, curbside would cost $240 per year, which is more than people would be paying in taxes, even someone with a $400,000 home/.
“Even at 83 years old, I can still do math pretty good,” Albright said. “I would take the math professor’s suggestion. Let them raise your taxes. Because if you’re living in a $150,000 home, you’re only going to pay $50 more.”
“I personally am not against the tax increase,” said LaGrange resident Lloyd Welch. “The tax increase is going to cost me a whole lot less per month than what it’s going to cost going to the private service.”
Welch said he moved from a community that did pay-as-you-throw, which he said was very expensive.
“We came from a community that did do price per bag and that kind of worked out to be a disaster,” Welch said, explaining they were required to pre-purchase expensive bags to drop off their trash.
Others suggested opening a landfill to reduce costs.
Crews said the county has no plans to open a landfill as they are even more expensive to operate than their current sanitation costs.
Multiple homeowners said that they have already been told that they cannot get curbside service, so they need the convenience centers to have somewhere for their garbage.
“You actually have to go through Alabama to get to us because we’re on a peninsula that is in part of the city and is part of the county,” said Peter Rivera, whose home is separated from the rest of Troup County by West Point Lake.
“We have to use the convenience center,” he said.
Crews said despite the conspiracies that he has read on Facebook, the county still hasn’t made a decision on the matter.
Several people also took issue with the timing of the public hearing, which was only announced the day before. Crews said they intend to meet with citizens again when more details are ironed out, but no date has been set.
“This is a difficult, difficult process. We’re in a difficult position when faced with continued rising costs to the citizen. We will gather again at our next public hearing. As far as information on when we meet again, it will be public. I will stress again, there is no conspiracy to keep any of you from participating in government,” Crews said.
“If you have any questions about it, please call us,” Crews said. “We’re open we want to meet with you.”