Commissioners panic about trash at undisclosed location @ LCC 2012 03 31

The Lowndes County Commission continues to hide when it talks about waste disposal. The VDT got slightly more specific about the undisclosed location of the Lowndes County Commission Retreat, and much more specific about what they were doing, yet according to state law their minutes need to be still more specific. And it’s not clear why they’re panicking about waste disposal when the deficit on that public good has come down rapidly in recent years.

David Rodock wrote for the VDT Saturday, Commission tackles key issues: Waste management, tax lighting districts and SPLOST discussed at retreat,

Commissioners and staff from Lowndes County buckled down Friday at Chairman Ashley Paulk’s guest home to address issues such as waste management, special tax lighting districts, SPLOST negotiations and necessary expenditures for equipment and staff.

A LAKE roving reporter (not me) observed many vehicles at Shiloh Farms’ recent acquisition in Berrien County on the north side of GA 122 a bit east of Old Valdosta Road (Cat Creek Road), so that seems likely the undisclosed location.

By the end of the afternoon, Commissioners made decisions on a few key issues.

It’s good to hear our elected representatives were working, even though they do not appear to have followed state law about this open meeting. And we can look forward to the names of which of them voted for each decision, according to the recent Georgia Supreme Court decision.

Here’s one thing they were working on:
Solid waste management, which is currently handled with collection centers, has run at a deficit of over $300,000.

That’s less than the deficit it was running last time (23 May 2011) the Commission had a meeting at an undisclosed location with no agenda where they talked about waste disposal. According to David Rock in the VDT 24 May 2011, Commissioners want Lowndes out of the trash business,

In total, the county is currently spending $782,058.34 each year for solid waste disposal, a reduction from $1,176,207.75 in 2007.

So that’s a rapid reduction in cost to less than a third of what it used to be, and less than half of what it was only a year ago. Back to Saturday’s VDT report:

County manager Joe Pritchard assured them the budget was in better shape than last year.

So why are they panicking about waste disposal?

Because they want it to run at exactly zero deficit:

Fees have been transferred from landfill hosting fees to help recover some of those costs. Cards for use of those centers are available to citizens at $100, but revenue is still not equivalent to operation costs.

What if trash collection is a public service that the county should arrange to perform even if it loses money on it? Or that since they had rapidly reduced the deficit on this service they could maybe find ways to tune it further to reduce that deficit further.

Nope, looks like they still want to go the full Wakulla:

Commissioners decided that getting out of the “trash business” was best and that a non-exclusive agreement with current curbside pickup companies (which about 12,000 citizens already employ) would provide service without putting any people out of business. They also thought that adding a surcharge of $2 to those companies would help cover the collection centers, in order to continue to provide more premium services such as recycling, yard waste and appliance disposal. An ordinance that will make illegal dumping more of a serious offense was also considered to prevent people from neglecting the use of a curbside pickup company.

So they “decided” (looking forward to the names of who voted for it) to force rural citizens to pay private companies for pickup yet they merely considered doing something about illegal dumping. I’ve already had to build fences and gates to stop illegal dumping, and I bet I’m not the only one. Meanwhile, many rural people can’t afford the $100 card and they won’t be able to afford the higher cost of curbside pickup. So by treating rural citizens like urban ones, they’re actually pushing some rural citizens into illegal behavior, and socializing the costs of that onto rural landowners.

What if the Commission added a surcharge to the curbside pickup companies and continued selling the $100 cards for the collection centers? What if they offered different rates for the cards for users of various sizes, so those who don’t want or can’t afford curbside pickup could pay more for more bulk or pay less if they had less to dispose of? Did they consider any other options such as those?

Did they ask for any ideas from citizens or other communities that have dealt with this problem? Nope. And that’s how they got into this mess in the first place. Former Chairman Rod Casey told me after they previously decided to go full Wakulla that the Commission and staff knew everything there was to know about waste disposal, and didn’t need any input from anyone else. His plan failed because no curbside pickup company would bid at the then-specified price. Incoming Chairman Ashley Paulk presided over changing to the current card-fee collection center plan, which as we’ve seen has rapidly reduced the waste-disposal deficit.

By the way, in Wakulla County, Florida mandatory curbside pickup costs $196 per year. Want to take bets on how fast curbside pickup rates in Lowndes County will go up without the County’s collection centers competing?


1 thought on “Commissioners panic about trash at undisclosed location @ LCC 2012 03 31

  1. Barbara Stratton

    There are many injustices of socialism and redistribution of wealth (or garbage) and I’m glad to see you recognize this in the shifting of illegal dumping costs to landowners. I am also glad to see that at least the county is talking about privatization and not public/private partnerships (so far). When Hahira almost succeeded in placing a regional waste transfer station on city owned property I was concerned that the county was complacent in this because the Lowndes Board of Commissioners November 2007 meeting minutes showed they agreed to rezone the property for the purpose of the transfer station against the recommendations of the county planner, Jason Davenport. That rezoning action replaced a DRI (Development of Regional Impact) request for waste transfer station rezoning so it was easy to assume the county and possibly the region had a mutual agenda for the transfer station. During a recent discussion on the dangers of regional government with Valdosta mayor, Larry Hanson, I asked if the transfer station was a regional interest. He assured me the City of Valdosta had no knowledge and no interest in that transfer station prior to articles in the Valdosta Daily Times. I’ve not had an opportunity to discuss the possibility of mutual agenda with the county and if it comes up again in the future I am assuming proper procedures will be followed which mandate public meetings and input into the planning before a third DRI is entered, not after.
    I worked a contract for the IT of a Pensacola, FL software company that had waste management software contracts all over the US. It was my job to be the first line public relations person for incoming tech support calls. I developed a good working relationship with owners and managers of various waste management companies and as is my habit I got all the information I could from them while mutually satisfying their tech support needs. I am well aware of the highly lucrative nature of waste management businesses as well as the often times overly aggressive nature of their management. It would be a good idea to keep transparency a high priority when we citizens observe government inter-relations with waste management private businesses and public/private partnerships should be absolute taboo.
    The City of Valdosta seems to do well with in-house waste management services. Perhaps other cities as well as the county should seek their advice rather than heading deeper into privatization. If privatization is chosen it should be a complete division with no public/private partnership bleed over and no other avenues for crony capitalism or conflict of interest influences.

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