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Avondale Estates City Commission considering contractor for sanitation services

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Avondale Estates City Commission considering contractor for sanitation services

Avondale Estates City Manager Patrick Bryant (far left) presented a proposal for the city's public works services to Mayor Jonthan Elmore (second from left) and Commissioners Lisa Shortell, Graham Reiney, Mike Smith and Lionel Laratte during a work session on Jan. 24, 2024, at City Hall. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Avondale Estates, GA — Avondale Estates may have a third-party company take over sanitation services for the city. The city manager presented a potential contractor to the city commission during its work session on Jan. 24.

If the city commission moves forward with the contract, that would also mean the city’s sanitation fee would be reduced. At the next work session, the contractor, Arrow, will likely present its services to the city commission.

The city has been figuring out what its sanitation services will look like over the last year and a half. For years, the public works department collected solid waste and recycling by picking it up from residents’ backdoors. The city commission heard from public works employees that the service was time-consuming and labor-intensive.

Members of the department shared their stories during a work session in September 2022 of working for the city and their various encounters with residents and dogs while on the job. At that time, public works asked the city to shift to curbside pickup.

Marcel Jackson, public works director, came to Avondale about two years ago. He previously worked in public works for the city of Montezuma, Ga., and saw the city shift from back door sanitation service to curbside pickup.

“Fast forward to the Avondale experience,” Jackson previously said. “We have been through many growing pains and challenges since I’ve been here. Back door garbage collection is one of the biggest challenges by far since I’ve been here.”

Public works also experiences an average of 50 callouts per month. City Manager Patrick Bryant previously said there are about 20 working days in a month, which means there are 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.

Last spring, Bryant presented three options for sanitation services for the city commission to consider. 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.

In the fall of 2023, Avondale Estates released a request for proposals for sanitation services that included solid waste disposal and recycling. The city eliminated backdoor sanitation pickup and shifted to curbside collection in October 2023.

The city has been working to figure out a long-term approach to sanitation services. That recommendation currently looks like Arrow taking over solid waste and recycling collection and the city continuing to do yard waste collection. The city would also contract out for landscaping services.

“We used to have a reactive public works program, meaning that all non-sanitation related public works activities were conducted in a reactive way, whether that be by a request of the former city manager or via conversations with residents,” Bryant said.

Working in a reactive way didn’t allow the city to assess how much staff was needed, figure out how long certain activities took, or when they needed to be done.

So the city started rebuilding a public works program that would allow staff to also perform all other non-sanitation public works activities to a standard the community expects. Non-sanitation public works activities include landscaping, planting, pruning, roadwork, sidewalk work, tree work, stormwater work, event support, facilities management and odd jobs, Bryant said.

Here’s a breakdown of the cost:

In terms of the general fund, $681,402 was appropriated in the 2024 budget for public works personnel who do non-sanitation services. The city’s plan calls for the retention of 10 public works employees. The compensation package would total $743,629. Some of that cost is split between the general fund and the stormwater fund, so $40,000 is covered by the stormwater fund.

There are currently 19 employees in public works – 17 full-time positions and two seasonal positions. Seven full-time employees would not be retained by the city. Arrow also agreed to provide employment opportunities to each employee the city cannot retain.

The operating cost of yard service is about $150,000, which could be allocated to the sanitation fund instead of the general fund. The city would also contract out for landscaping services, and the cost would be about $120,000 to the general fund.

Bryant is recommending the city end its contract for janitorial services and have public works staff do that work. The cost of that contract is $23,000.

The total impact to the general fund would be $650,629 to perform non-sanitation services.

“I say all that to say, as we move forward with this plan, there will be no need to adjust the millage rate for this plan specifically. It all fits in the existing budget,” Bryant said.

With Arrow’s proposal, the fee per household would be $263.52 annually for solid waste and recycling collection. That total also includes the tipping fee. The proposal is for curbside pickup once a week, and Arrow would provide the 95-gallon carts.

The annual cost per household for yard waste collection would be about $109.76. The total sanitation fee assessed to households would be about $373.28. This revenue would go to the sanitation fund.

The current sanitation fee is $596 per household, which still does not cover the total cost of the sanitation program. If the public works department were to continue solid waste collection, the city would need to replace its three garbage trucks. Revenue from the current sanitation fee would not be enough to cover that capital cost.

“We would need to raise the fee to approximately $710 per household in order to generate enough revenue,” Bryant said.

Arrow would also pick up recycling and solid waste at commercial properties. Bryant didn’t specify the exact cost to do so but said Arrow’s cost is about the same as the city’s cost.

Arrow would allow businesses to contract for three- or five-day-a-week pick-up. Businesses would also still be able to either opt-in to have the city collect their solid waste and recycling, or opt-out and contract with a vendor on their own.

“We feel very confident with their proposal. We feel very confident with our plan. We think we’ve achieved all of our goals that we set out to achieve. The department is certainly aggressively on board with this plan. We think it will pay dividends for the long-term health of the city and our ability to sustain ourselves as a beautiful, functioning community,” Bryant said.

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