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Avondale Estates considers purchasing electric truck for police department

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Avondale Estates considers purchasing electric truck for police department

Avondale Estates police car. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Avondale Estates, GA — The Avondale Estates City Commission, at its Feb. 14 work session, discussed purchasing a fourth electric vehicle for the police department.

The city commission is considering adding an F150 Lighting to the police department’s vehicle fleet for administrative use. According to Ford, the F150 Lighting is an electric truck and can also serve as a mobile power source.

In 2022, the city purchased three electric vehicles and charging stations for the police department. The department picked up the three Ford Mach-Es in August 2022, and they are reserved for administrative use.

There are four non-patrol positions in the police department – the chief, deputy chief, and two criminal investigations division detectives. The city has four vehicles for those officers.

“Three of those vehicles are the Mach-E electric vehicles that we purchased a little over [a year and half] ago, but the fourth is the oldest vehicle in our fleet,” Bryant said. “It is an unmarked Ford Taurus that is falling apart and is, quite frankly, costly to maintain.”

If the city commission approves the purchase of the F150 Lightning, it would go to the police chief and his Mach-E would go to one of the detectives.

Some agencies had ordered the F-150 Lightnings, but production of the truck took longer than anticipated, and those agencies canceled their orders. These trucks have now hit some Ford lots, Bryant said.

“Because of the excess supply than demand, we decided we would quote those vehicles to see if the cost was reasonably similar to that of a Mach-E and because the F-150 provides us with some additional capabilities that a Mach-E doesn’t, like the ability for the chief to go on-scene, especially scenes that are more difficult to access,” Bryant said.

In other business:

– During the regular meeting, the city commission appointed Commissioner Lisa Shortell to serve as the mayor pro tem. Brian Fisher previously served as the mayor pro tem, but he did not run for reelection in November 2023.

“I would accept that role to be your substitute,” Shortell told Mayor Jonathan Elmore.

Elmore added that Shortell is always prepared for meetings, knows what’s going on, and appreciates that she also serves on the city’s Downtown Development Authority.

– The city commission heard a presentation from Arrow Waste during the work session. The city commission is considering contracting with Arrow Waste to take over sanitation services for Avondale Estates. City Manager Patrick Bryant presented the option at the Jan. 24 work session.

If the city commission moves forward with the contract, that would also mean the city’s sanitation fee would be reduced, and there would be a 60-day transition period. At the next work session, the city commission will likely discuss the contract with Arrow but is not expected to vote on the contract until March.

The city staff has recommended that Arrow Waste take over solid waste and recycling collection and that the city continue to do yard waste collection. The city would also contract out for landscaping services.

“What I’m understanding is that [city staff] are recommending that we go to outsource sanitation and recycling and the reason why is because it’s more economical and because it will also benefit other aspects of our public works department,” Shortell said.

If the contract with Arrow is approved, 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 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. The sanitation would need to increase to $710 per household to cover the capital costs.

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.

Avondale Estates would be Arrow’s first municipal contract. The company currently services several homeowner’s associations and commercial properties in the metro area. George DeVries, vice president of Arrow Waste, said the company would service the city with smaller garbage trucks.

“Our mission is to become the premier and the largest waste removal company in the metro area,” DeVries said. “To be able to do that, we have to be great at everything we do.”

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 has agreed to provide employment opportunities to each employee the city cannot retain.

“We also included in our provision a minimum compensation rate for that transition,” Bryant said. “The compensation rate that we requested is slightly higher than the entry level compensation package that we are able to provide now.”

A few residents at the meeting expressed concerns about contracting with Arrow Waste and what will happen to the public works employees who are not retained.

“It’s 2024, I wouldn’t want to be without a job or in a job I was unsure of,” Mary Lou Waymer said. “I appreciate them. I wave at them. I don’t get to talk to them much at 7 a.m. in the morning, but I will have a continuing concern.”

“I could use $200 a year, but not on the back of a worker,” she added.

Resident Beth Fisher expressed concerns as well about safety.

“I know these people. I feel comfortable around these people,” she said. “They’re good people. They’re hardworking people and I appreciate their efforts. I’d rather my fee for sanitation go up than to lose them.”

The city also released a press release with additional information about the public works program. Here is the full press release:

On January 24, 2024, the Board of Mayors and Commissioners (BOMC) heard recommendations from City Manager Patrick Bryant on proposed changes to the public works program, including contracting solid waste and recycling services. This past fall, the city requested proposals to determine the most cost-effective and efficient way to manage the city’s solid waste disposal. The proposals showed contracting with an outside vendor would provide cost savings while maintaining high-level quality services for the city.

Marcel Jackson, director of Public Works, has been instrumental in developing the plan alongside Bryant to create efficiencies within the department. “We’ve been diligently working on a solution for the past year, and we believe this plan will pay dividends for the long-term fiscal health of the city and our ability to sustain ourselves as a beautiful functioning community,” noted Bryant.

The cost of providing the current sanitation program is not fully covered by the sanitation fee. However, if the BOMC accepts the staff’s recommendation, the sanitation fee will not only be reduced but will completely cover the costs of sanitation services. Changes to the delivery of sanitation services will allow remaining Public Works staff to focus on non-sanitation tasks such as stormwater maintenance, planting, pruning, roadwork, sidewalk improvements, tree work, events support, facilities management, and other improvements. The city is also considering hiring a landscape company to handle more complex landscaping tasks that require specialized expertise.

For Jackson, the changes are welcome. In fact, Jackson started discussing how to bring a more sustainable, fiscally responsible model to the city with Bryant when he first began in 2020. Before coming to Avondale Estates, he helped lead a similar change to outsourced services in Montezuma, Georgia. “Change can be uncomfortable when you don’t know what to expect. But I’m confident this is the right thing to do to provide the citizens with the best bang for their buck,” said Jackson.

Jackson says the Public Works staff will work side-by-side with the contractor to ensure a smooth transition. “We’ve spent many hours creating a solution that fits within the city’s budget and resources while maintaining high quality solid waste services that the city’s residents have come to expect. This new proposal is a win-win for the residents and our team. We take pride in our work for the city and are excited to focus on items we’ve been unable to address,” explained Jackson.

Key takeaways from the proposed changes:

— Homeowners will see a reduction of approximately $220 annually in their current sanitation fee.

— Solid waste pickup will move to once a week, and recycling will remain once weekly.

— Bulk pickup will be outsourced to the new company, and fees will decrease significantly.

— The city will still provide the same yard waste pickup service.

— Commercial businesses will still have multiple sanitation service options.

— The city will retain ten positions in the Public Works department, allowing them to shift focus to other much-needed public works tasks.

— Current staff not retained by the city will have the guaranteed option to work for the sanitation contractor, who has pledged to offer compensation packages starting at $17 per hour.

— All these services will come under the current amount allocated for them in the 2024 adopted budget.

Discussions on this topic will continue with the BOMC over the next month. Find the details of the proposed plan within the frequently asked questions on the Public Works Project web page.

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