OUR VIEW: County has a tough decision to make

Published 9:30 am Saturday, April 8, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Perhaps Troup County should consider putting the convenience centers on every commission meeting agenda, if the result is going to be a packed room of concerned citizens. The crowd is noticeable considering almost no one from the public regularly attends commission meetings. 

All jokes aside, it’s clear the county has hit a nerve — or at the very least created a lot of concern — as it discussed how to handle the increased cost of sanitation. Three public hearings have been held and at all of them concerned citizens have spoken out publicly.

That’s a good sign. Citizens should be extremely involved in this process, and it’s clear they are.

And for anyone complaining about the upcoming changes, we’re guessing if your family finances looked like the county’s sanitation budget that you’d be changing something too.

Costs for the county have exploded since 2017 when the City of LaGrange decided to stop hauling commercial garbage in order to prolong the life of their landfill. At the time, the county’s sanitation budget was $411,737. County Manager Eric Mosley said the county is currently projecting the operations budget for next year to cost upwards of $2.2 million, which doesn’t include much-needed capital expenditures to replace trucks, compactors and site repairs.

It’s clear something needs to change and will change. The county is essentially deciding between four options and one of them is going to be the answer, likely within the next 10 days or so. 

Option A is to change nothing but the millage rate would increase with most homeowners paying between $60 to $100 on top of their current tax bill. The specific amount will be based on property values. This would mean city residents, who likely don’t use county sanitation options, would be paying part of the cost.

Option B would be for the county to completely drop sanitation services. Residents could partner with their own provider of curbside services.

Option C would be for the county to contract with a sanitation company, which would handle residential pickup and would run up to four convenience centers. Three bids were received for this option, with the recommended bid having a $31.50 monthly fee for residential service. Throwing trash in the convenience centers would be included for anyone with curbside service, and anyone without the curbside service would pay to use the convenience centers. 

Option D would reduce the number of convenience centers and switch to a pay-as-you-throw system countywide. 

The commission has heard from a lot of concerned citizens, who like Option A. That means nothing changes, except for paying more in taxes to help negate the increased costs. 

This is the cheapest option for county residents, as the cost increase would be much cheaper than a monthly charge for residential services. 

While the county could certainly make a case for any of these options — Mosley has recommended Option C — it’d probably be in their best interest to strongly consider the option citizens prefer. That’s clearly Option A, at least from the people who have been outspoken on the issue. 

However, we’re guessing sanitation costs are going to continue to rise in years to come, meaning Option A may only get more expensive in upcoming years. Plus, many of the citizens paying the increased taxes don’t live in unincorporated Troup County. They live in the cities of LaGrange, West Point and Hogansville, and they already pay for sanitation. City citizens already pay twice for sanitation since they also live in the county and adding to that cost seems unfair. 

Some in the audience argued that it’s fair to do that because they contribute to the Thread and the school system through taxes, even though many of them use neither. 

However, much of the funding for the Thread comes from SPLOST, which is approved by voters (by the way, the most recent vote on SPLOST featured only a 17% turnout) and school taxes have nothing to do with the county’s budget. 

Option C would prevent people who never use the convenience centers, and already pay for sanitation services, from forking over more money to solve the county’s sanitation problems. 

Option C also gives citizens flexibility since they can decide between curbside service or paying as they throw at a convenience center. 

There’s no perfect answer that’s going to keep everyone happy. The county commission has to weigh the best long-term option of being good stewards of taxpayer money while also being understanding of the citizens it serves.