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February 19, 2009
Supervisors tackle trash pick-up issue
By Lucy Weber
Madison County officials are starting to consider how garbage will be picked up starting Oct. 1.
The Board of Supervisors is looking at staying with current contractor Red River, switching providers or putting the county back in the trash business.
"We're in the process of deciding," board president Paul Griffin said at the supervisors' meeting Tuesday.
"I'd like to save money, but my deal on garbage is service," Griffin said. "We're missing some service when it's privatized. Who can serve best? Those out to make money or those to serve the people? Madison County employees are out to serve the people."
The county's four-year contract with Red River expires Sept. 30. Two weeks ago, supervisors voted to give the company six-months notice they planned to terminate the contract for once-a-week garbage pickup. However, the county can still renew the two-year option on Red River's contract.
"They haven't ruled anything in or out," board attorney Eric Hamer said.
District 1 Supervisor John Bell Crosby asked the board to consider all options for garbage disposal by seeking information from companies that could be interested in the job and input from the county's road department on how it would handle the trash pickup.
"I realize that doing it ourselves is an option but we need to look at all our options," Crosby said.
Crosby's motion failed. District 3 Supervisor D.I. Smith voted with Crosby while Griffin, Tim Johnson of District 2 and Karl Banks of District 4 voted against seeking requests for proposals (RFPs).
"At some point we can decide. We don't want to lock ourself into RFPs," Johnson said.
The county sold its aging garbage trucks when it turned over garbage pickup to Red River. Getting new trucks will take several months so the process would need to start by early April if that's the direction the county chooses, purchasing clerk Hardy Crunk told the board.
Chip Barton of Red River and Buford Clark of Waste Management asked the supervisors to consider their services.
"We'd like to talk about renewing for two more years," Barton said.
"We want to be one of your options," Clark said. "We think we can save you some money."
County administrator Donnie Caughman said initial estimates are that it would cost the county $1.8 million to resume garbage collection services while the cost to say with Red River is $2 million annually.
If the county does not contract with an outside company for pickup, then the county has a choice for doing the job in-house.
The supervisors agreed to hire an outside consultant to conduct a feasibility study of creating a Madison County solid waste collection authority.
"This lets the county operate solid waste collection like a business," consultant Jim McNaughton said. "It's more professional."
The authority would be a separate entity under county government and allows for more accountability in garbage pickup, McNaughton said. "I would encourage you to do this on an enterprise basis," he said. "If the county wants to get into the garbage collection business, now is an opportune time."
The county could establish an authority and then invite other cities or counties to join in the enterprise and share the cost or pick up trash in other locales under contracts. The advantages of an authority are to control the level of service and to control long-term costs, McNaughton said.
The feasibility study will determine what the county's cost will be to begin the service compared to private companies, he said. "We can put the numbers to it to see if it makes sense."
The county will pay McNaughton $150 per hour for the feasibility study that is expected to be completed in 40-60 hours.
Johnson said he's leery of establishing a Madison County authority. Instead, he said he would rather see the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District set up the authority and allow Madison County to participate through it.