How the county can best manage its solid waste collections and transport was once again a point of contention for a divided Board of Commissioners in Screven County.
Under consideration at Tuesday’s commission meeting was an amendment to the AllGreen agreement for solid waste services as it pertains to county collection and hauling. The amendment was not an addendum to the contract, but a replacement contract of sorts with additional services offered by AllGreen. The issue has been discussed at the last three meetings and drew commissioners out for a workshop with the public in June as well.
When Chairman Will Boyd moved to the agenda item Tuesday, Commissioner Rosa Romeo moved immediately to approve the amendment, with a second by Commissioner John Triplett. When Boyd asked if there was any discussion on the matter, Commissioner Allison Willis said she reviewed the contract and had issues that she wanted to put in writing to ensure they were formally part of the meeting minutes.
Willis read a prepared list of objections that coincided paragraph-by-paragraph to the proposed contract with AllGreen which included that:
- the contract up for consideration is exclusive for AllGreen Services when the original solid waste transportation agreement was not an exclusive agreement and required board action to be renewed each year;
- the contract shows that the county will continue to incur costs for the maintenance, operations, and repairs of the facilities despite the increased use of the transfer station by AllGreen Services and Atlantic Waste Services and their desire to import trash that originates outside of the county.”
- the hauling rate of $18.00/ton is “too high for a county that has its own trailers and could be hauling the trash at an even lower rate than $18/ton. Additionally, there is still, in the original solid waste transportation agreement, a fuel surcharge schedule. This schedule allows for an additional fee to be attached to the total cost of the load if fuel prices rise above the base rate of $2.75.” Willis said the current rate for diesel, per gallon, as of July 12th, is $3.21;
- there is a loading fee of $6.50 per ton, which Willis said contradicts what was said at the June meeting at which time AllGreen representatives told Commissioners that AllGreen would be providing the loading operations at no cost. Given the approximate 11,000 tons annually, Willis said that equates to $71,500 for loading. Willis said it would be more efficient to use inmate labor – which is a zero cost to the county – when properly supervised;
- there is a tipping fee of $24.50, which offers no financial benefit to the county. Willis cited June meeting minutes approved Tuesday which reflect that Triplett said AllGreen had an advantage in tipping fee costs because of their higher volumes. Willis said other surrounding landfills participate in competitive bidding and when she reached out to one in the area, she was given a tipping rate of $18.00/ton;
- the lack of segregation of construction and demolition materials which could be recycled and reused locally;
- the use of the transfer station to allow Jenkins County trash to pass through will not produce any substantial amount of revenue. Jenkins produces roughly 4,800 tons of trash per year. Screven will charge AllGreen Services/AWS $51 per ton and immediately turn around and pay to AllGreen/AWS $49/ton for the same trash. $2/ton on 4,800 tons is $9,600 annually. “That amount will not cover any damages to the loading dock or the scales caused by the additional use. The county residents will be left to cover the costs yet they are not the producers of that increased trash;”
- annual rate increases will be subject to a 4% disposal cost increased at the landfill at the beginning of each calendar year. Willis said the contract was the first time the 4% disposal cost was mentioned, it was not discussed at any of the public meetings, and is not in any other contract with AllGreen or AWS. The 4% fee means the tipping fee will be $27.56 by 2024, Willis said, stopping the county from soliciting bids from surrounding landfills and will ensure the county is not getting the best rate;
Willis also took issue with the contracts lacking stipulations regarding:
- Insurance and liability to the county for allowing a private entity and non-employees to operate county equipment on county property;
- Compensation for use of the loading dock and transfer statement;
- Rules regarding storage by the private companies for long-term or short-term use;
- Rules for incoming trash or any stopgap measure to stop AllGreen from routing other counties’ trash to Jenkins and then to Screven;
- Prohibition of inmate labor to assist AllGreen & AWS;
- Defined areas of use for AllGreen & AWS and what county property areas are off limits;
“What I mean is this transfer station is directly attached to an undeveloped piece of land that was once under consideration for a local landfill by the county for the county. So, you are granting access to an individual that this county just fought on a landfill, granting them access to a piece of property that has already been approved by the EPD for a landfill,” Willis said.
“I respectfully will vote NO on the Amendment as the stipulations not in the contract are incomplete, inaccurate, and they’re inconsistent with the oath of office I took when I was sworn in. Furthermore, if it’s not the Board’s intent, if it’s not the Board’s intent, to set AllGreen Services and Atlantic Waste Services up for access to a landfill, I implore each commissioner to hold off on voting on this Amendment, let’s make revision and additions, and to hold an open discussion with the citizens of this county before moving forward on it,” she closed.
Commissioner Mike Dixon said Willis raised several good questions. “We’ve voted on resolutions and code amendments and in my opinion we really haven’t discussed them as a Board in a workshop. I think we’re moving too fast and we’re not giving this complete thought as we should.”
When Willis concluded, Commissioner Edwin Lovett said she had gone ‘far outside the scope of the agreement,’ which Boyd echoed.
Dixon said the discussion points brought up by Willis were the ‘beginning of the beginning,’ to which Lovett said the points were ones that cannot be assumed will occur and don’t need to be addressed. Lovett said the contract didn’t need any additions or subtractions because the things mentioned were outside the scope of the agreement. As to the billing issues, he said they had some historically but the county is “gettin’ it under control.”
Commissioner JC Warren said the county “can’t control after hours and all that” but Willis pushed back, saying it’s the county’s transfer station and they’re responsible for it.
Boyd said the Amendment was an opportunity to make the sanitation department more efficient. “I don’t see where, I realize what you’re saying possibly could happen, but it’s pretty far-fetched. Especially the landfill part. That’s way out there. Like, I don’t think that’s possible, much less probable.”
Willis also said there has been a billing issue with the tipping fees and no safeguards in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again, especially when the county has to pay for outgoing trash. She said the county should have been billing more, collecting more, and billing more frequently.
FY 2018 tipping revenue=$36,000
FY 2019 tipping revenue=$44,000
FY 2020 tipping revenue=$61,000
FY 2021 tipping revenue=$211,000
In addition, the county expenses for trash collections have declined by at least $200,000 since FY 2018, but that number is not substantial to justify outsourcing, Willis and Dixon argued. (Expenses were approx. $1,089,000 in FY 2018, $1,049,000 in FY 2019, $909,000 in FY 2020, and $894,000 in FY 2021. Commissioner Triplett has said in previous meetings that the cost savings has only been recently realized with site consolidation and full outsourcing of services)
Commissioner Triplett took issue with Willis’ claims, saying they were incorrect and the matter should be taken to a vote. When Willis asked her what was incorrect, Triplett cited “inflation, that collections were up five-fold, there was a one mill savings to date which helped the county avoid a tax increase, an increase in the cost of diesel fuel, health insurance rates increasing 50% over two years, the monetary value in avoiding risks of accidents and lawsuits, and the fact that no one was out of a job.” Triplett said AllGreen and AWS offered jobs to county sanitation workers, as did the prison.
“The savings was substantial,” Triplett said.
Ultimately, Chairman Boyd called for a vote and the amendment was approved 4-2 with Commissioners Allison Willis and Mike Dixon opposing.
You can watch the clip of Willis reading her statement below followed by the discussion by other commissioners.