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Avondale Estates City Commission considers shifting to curbside sanitation collection

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Avondale Estates City Commission considers shifting to curbside sanitation collection

Avondale Estates City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Avondale Estates, GA — Avondale Estates City Manager Patrick Bryant and Public Works Director Marcel Jackson have proposed shifting to curbside sanitation pickup and having the public works department pick up recycling.

“As a staff, we have begun considering potential options that we believe would best maximize the efficiency of our public works department,” Bryant said at the Sept. 28 city commission meeting.

The city commission has had an ongoing conversation about the backdoor sanitation service and what the future of that service looks like. At the Sept. 14 city commission meeting, Jackson and members of the public works department shared stories of their experiences while on the job doing backdoor sanitation collection.

The city’s greenspace manager was also running into a staffing issue, as the greenspace employees were being pulled from the division to help with sanitation.

Public works averages 50 callouts per month, Jackson previously said. City Manager Patrick Bryant previously said there are about 20 working days in a month, which means there’s about 2.5 callouts per day. That means about two to three workers are being pulled from the greenspace crew every day to do sanitation. The backdoor service takes all day for the workers to get done.

“So that means two and a half bodies from greenspace to perform sanitation every single day, all day, which keeps us from executing our very robust greenspace management plan that has been developed by our greenspace manager, Adrian Langston, whom we hired to do just that,” Bryant said. “Without hiring a significant amount of new staff, which we really can’t afford, we’re unable to execute the program to his satisfaction, and really to the satisfaction of myself and the residents of this community.”

Additionally, shifting to curbside trash pickup would reduce the amount of time it takes the department to collect solid waste on a given day.

“Instead of having to provide bodies from our greenspace division to our sanitation division, we’re able to do the reverse and provide bodies from our sanitation division to our greenspace division, thus freeing up much more time to perform necessary greenspace activities,” Bryant said.

The proposal could also reduce the city’s sanitation fee for residents. Revenue collected from the city’s sanitation fee goes toward providing sanitation services by funding salaries and paying for equipment.

“Residents aren’t paying for us to pick up two days a week. They’re paying for us to pick up in general,” Bryant said. “Even if we go to one day a week pick up, we have to employ the same amount of people, so the salaries cost is the same. We have to use the same equipment, so the equipment costs are the same. We’re just freeing up time to perform other public works activities that we are currently unable to free up because of the way we collect sanitation.”

Bryant and Jackson proposed to the city commission that the city move to once-a-week curbside sanitation collection and bring the recycling services in-house. The city would also dedicate a day to recycling services.

“The benefit of this is twofold. One, it would allow us to maintain the very popular plastic film [recycling] program,” Bryant said.

The pilot program for plastic film recycling is about to expire, so if the city were to continue the program, it would have to cover the cost. That would be an additional cost to the city’s recycling contractor, but if the program was done in house, there would be no additional cost to the city.

Currently, the city contracts with Lathum for recycling services for about $115,000 a year.

“In addition, most of the funds that we expend towards recycling would go away because we’d be doing it ourselves,” Bryant said. “The amount that it costs for us to contract to recycle is approximately $75 per household in the city, so if we were to bring recycling in house, we would be able to reduce the sanitation fee and give our residents some relief there.”

If the city moves to a curbside program, the residential solid waste and recycling services would be done on two days, which would free up three days for public works employees to take on other tasks such as greenspace and facilities.

“It would also reduce the number of call-outs on sanitation days, so we anticipate that every day during the week the greenspace crew would be fully staffed or very close to fully staffed,” Bryant said. “It would also reduce the amount of time per day it takes to collect waste, so afternoons that were previously dedicated to sanitation would free up a little bit to do other activities.”

Commissioner Lisa Shortell said the city and community should be aware that greenspace is being added to Avondale Estates with the Town Green and also the U.S. 278 road diet.

“We’re adding a whole bunch of planting strips. Yes, we’re trying to design it so that things take minimal maintenance, but nevertheless, as we start to reclaim our downtown the burden of greenspace maintenance will grow,” Shortell said. “There’s a whole host of issues around greenspace that we really need to be able to have the ability to focus on.”

Avondale takes pride in its services, Mayor Pro Tem Brian Fisher said, but he hadn’t previously understood the impact of the backdoor sanitation service on the employees. He added that they are a priority.

As fall begins, the city will be collecting yard waste and the leaf truck will be making its way around the city. Fisher said the city gets many calls about the leaf truck and when it will come around to households.

“But you realize that the truck couldn’t be around because we had to do sanitation. That was taking up 70-75% of the daily resources of what our public works guys were doing. If we can redirect that into other things that would help beautify our city, I think that’s important,” Fisher said.

The city commission has taken no formal action to shifting to curbside service. The city staff will continue refining the proposal, collect data, get costs for a city-issued trash bin and figure out the logistics of a curbside program.

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