Avondale Estates city manager presents options for garbage collectionAvondale Estates City Manager Patrick Bryant (far left) presented three options for the city's sanitation program to the city commission during a work session on Wednesday, April 26, at City Hall. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
Avondale Estates, GA — Avondale Estates City Manager Patrick Bryant presented three options for sanitation services to the city commission during a work session on April 26. The options included keeping the service the same, shifting to curbside garbage collection, and outsourcing the solid waste services.
All options would increase the city’s sanitation fee.
DeKalb County is also considering increasing the tipping fee it charges to the cities that use the county landfill: Avondale Estates, Decatur and Chamblee. This increase would result in the cost being passed on to homeowners.
Currently, the cities pay $33 per ton, but the county has proposed increasing the tipping fee to $95 per ton. In Avondale Estates, that change would increase the sanitation fee by $115 per household.
“They have not given us a date at which they will reconsider that item,” Bryant said. “I do know that the DeKalb municipal governments who are using the DeKalb landfill and would be subjected to that increase have communicated that pain that would cause each of the municipalities, not only because…we have set our fee in advance of that item being considered, but that those hikes would be exorbitant and difficult for us to absorb.”
Regarding the city’s sanitation service, Bryant gave an overview of the three options under consideration.
Option one keeps the service the same with twice-weekly backdoor residential solid waste collection, curbside recycling, leaf pickup, special yard waste pickup, greenspace services, and commercial solid waste.
To maintain the current service level, the city would need to replace two garbage trucks, a dump truck, and four leaf vehicles.
Avondale Estates has three garbage trucks; the newest one is already seven years old. The oldest leaf vacuum truck is almost 25 years old. The other leaf truck is also about 20 years old.
The total cost to replace the equipment would be about $920,000. The purchase would be phased over a five-year period so that the annual capital cost would be $184,000 per year.
“Vehicle repairs and maintenance for sanitation vehicles and equipment totaled $96,000 in 2022,” Bryant said. “To put that in perspective, we budgeted for $50,000 in repair and maintenance costs in the sanitation fund. Due to the age of the fleet, those costs are continually rising.”
He added those costs are beginning to rise exponentially because of the age of the vehicles.
The public works department is currently operating at a deficit of four employees. Bryant recommended the city hire four new non-managerial floating employees. The salaries for these employees would be split between the sanitation fund and the general fund. The total cost would be $87,000 for the sanitation fund and $87,000 for the general fund.
The floating employees would be “allocated best on a daily basis for what activities need performing. Whether that is to make up for call-outs in the sanitation division, or to make up for call-outs in the greenspace division, or just depending on the activities needed for the day,” Bryant said.
In 2022, the public works department logged 420 days of sick leave, which is 3,360 man-hours. One full-time position works 260 days or 2,080 man-hours.
“We came to attribute this to physical injury and mental exhaustion from the practice of twice-weekly backdoor sanitation service,” Bryant said.
The sick leave resulted in a loss of 1.6 full-time positions. The department loses an additional 2.4 full-time employees due to inclement weather and vehicle and equipment failure.
“That means that the public works department is essentially four [full-time equivalents] short of being able to perform all of the duties that are required to conduct the program, both sanitation and greenspace, in a manner that not the board would like to see, but our residents have come to expect, our businesses have come to expect, and staff have come to expect of ourselves,” Bryant said.
The sanitation fee would increase from $596 to $714. If the county increases the tipping fee, the city’s sanitation fee would be $829.
“We know right off-hand that the current sanitation fee that [the city commission] just approved would not be sufficient to cover the cost of the sanitation program if the tipping fee item were to be adopted at the county level,” Bryant said. “We also know that the current sanitation fee is not sufficient for the staffing level needed to perform all the baseline departmental tasks.”
The fee is also insufficient to generate enough revenue to replace the sanitation vehicles.
Option two suggests a shift to once-a-week curbside solid waste collection and would maintain the once-a-week curbside recycling collection. The city would need to purchase 96-gallon trash cans, costing about $175,000. The vehicle and equipment needs would be the same as option one.
The total cost of purchasing the 96-gallon trash cans and replacing the vehicles would be about $1 million or $219,000 per year over a five-year period.
In this scenario, six sanitation employees would become 60/40 floaters, so they would spend 40% of their time, or two days a week, with the greenspace division because solid waste collection would take up less time per week. The greenspace division would also hire one additional full-time employee.
The sanitation fee would be about $680 a year. If the county tipping fee increases, the city’s sanitation fee would be $795.
Option three would be to outsource solid waste collection. The city has not released an RFP or bid package for solid waste collection. This would also be once-a-week curbside garbage pick up using the 96-gallon trash cans.
“That would essentially remove the burden of having to replace the vehicles associated with the collection of solid waste,” Bryant said. “Not only would it remove that burden, it would allow us to sell the vehicles that were responsible for solid waste collection.”
The city doesn’t know how much those vehicles would sell for.
In this option, the only vehicles needing to be replaced would be the dump truck, leaf trucks, and vacuums. The total cost would be $108,000.
“The sanitation division would reduce to six full-time non-managerial staff, which would be responsible now for yard waste, leaf collection, events, facilities, roads, stuff like that, sidewalk repair and maintenance,” Bryant said. “Greenspace would hire two positions fully funded from the general fund.”
Currently, the city has nine sanitation workers so the division would reduce by three employees.
The sanitation fee would be about $409 per year.
“The fee would pay for solid waste sanitation, recycling, capital replacement, and the personnel remaining,” Bryant said.
Bryant said the conversations about this topic will continue and didn’t give a timeline for when the city commission will need to decide on changing the city’s garbage collection service.
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