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Avondale Estates city manager says public works department understaffed, saddled with aging vehicles

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Avondale Estates city manager says public works department understaffed, saddled with aging vehicles

Avondale Estates City Manager Patrick Bryant (far left) presented data to the city commission regarding the operations of the public works department during a work session on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at City Hall. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

By Jaedon Mason, contributor

Avondale Estates, GA — During the Avondale Estates City Commission meeting on Feb. 8, City Manager Patrick Bryant told city commissioners that the city’s public works department is understaffed and has a fleet of aging vehicles that won’t be cheap to replace.

Bryant presented the current status of the public works department in detail to provide a base for further discussion.

The work session primarily focused on the continuation of a discussion that began last year about the public works department and back door garbage collection. Bryant presented a data-driven look into the status quo of the public works program.

The aggregate man-hours needed to accomplish the public works mandate under peak conditions — which is defined as no call-outs, vacation time or sick time, perfect weather, and fully working equipment at all times — is about 33,000 hours or roughly 16 positions, which is the current amount of non-managerial positions in public works.

However, normal conditions are some call-outs, inconsistently operative equipment, and bad weather. The city would need 20 non-managerial positions to provide the current sanitation services in normal conditions, but currently, the public works department is about four people short of that.

Bryant emphasized the interconnectedness of the public works programs of sanitation and greenspace.

“We have to do sanitation,” Bryant said. “Any time there are issues with call-outs, extended sick leave, vacation…what ends up happening is that members who are otherwise assigned to greenspace are then pulled from the greenspace crew and assigned to the sanitation crew, and then our greenspace program is unable to be fully executed.”

Since a lot of these activities grow, the issues they present can become exacerbated if they are unable to be accomplished in the proper time frame.

Bryant also thanked community groups that have stepped up to volunteer and assist the city in various greenspace activities, but he was clear that community groups shouldn’t be obligated to do that.

“We are [grateful] about that, but those are activities we should be taking care of because it is public space, but we are unable to do that” Bryant said.

Bryant also discussed the public works’ department’s aging vehicles.

The problem is that there isn’t enough current funding to replace the out-of-date vehicle fleet. The age of the fleet means that selling vehicles won’t bring in enough additional funds to purchase new ones—which is common best practice.

In addition, their age affects their operability, causing vehicles to be expensive to maintain, while often being out of service due to maintenance. Which, has a knock on effect on morale and recruitment in an already understaffed department.

“We are at a crossroads when it comes to vehicles,” Bryant said.

Bryant said his report was purely informational, and he was not making a policy recommendation.

In the regular meeting, the city commission voted unanimously to approve the city’s intent to use eminent domain to acquire a portion of the Banjo Coffee property at 38 N. Avondale Road for public transportation purposes related to the U.S. 278 complete streets project.

In other business:

— The mayor issued a proclamation of the upcoming celebration of Arbor Day on Feb. 17th. While National Arbor day is on April 28th, across the country there are also local Arbor days that range in date to be in line with the regional planting season. The proclamation detailed that this will be the 150th celebration of Arbor Day and urged all citizens to “participate in efforts to protect our trees and woodlands.”

— The commission briefly discussed the upcoming automatic contract renewal for Latham Sanitation during the work session. The contract includes a 6.5% cost-of-living increase which the city anticipated, and budgeted for. The renewal will automatically begin in March and the total cost per household will be $6.42.

Notably, the Latham Sanitation representative made a point to commend Marcel Jackson, the city’s public works director, and Don Huff, a city sanitation manager.

“I’ve dealt with over 50 cities in my 40 something’ years of doing this…these are two good guys, they understand the business,” the Latham representative said.

— The commission discussed the upcoming curb and sidewalk repairs. The city received multiple proposals and city staff is recommending the Chattahoochee Group as the contractor.

The plan would begin in March and would be completed within the month. The proposal came in under budget and promises that “all high and medium-priority infrastructure from the inventory will be repaired,” Bryant said.

The total cost of the proposal with contingency built in was $185,925.

The rating system is based on the extent of deterioration based on data collected from public feedback and a staff inventory. The commission emphasized that they would share with the public when and where work would be taking place as the proposal becomes more concrete.

— The commission closed out the evening by discussing a resolution to become an Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) Green City. Participating in the program would allow for the city to make further progress on green Initiatives, as well as hopefully affirm the work that has already been done.

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