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Avondale Estates City Commission approves sanitation contract

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Avondale Estates City Commission approves sanitation contract

The Avondale Estates City Commission approved a contract for sanitation services at its March 13 meeting at City Hall. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Avondale Estates, GA — Over the next 60 days, the city of Avondale Estates will transition to Arrow Waste providing sanitation and recycling services in the city. The Avondale Estates City Commission unanimously approved a contract with Arrow at its March 13 regular meeting.

Avondale Estates would be Arrow’s first municipal contract. The city’s public works department would continue collecting yard waste. The city also plans to contract landscaping services, but the city commission has not considered a contract yet.

Arrow will pick up residential solid waste and recycling once a week curbside in Avondale Estates. Residents will be given a 95-gallon bin for garbage and a 33-gallon bin for recycling. Arrow will provide side door pick-up for elderly and disabled residents.

The approval of the contract also means that the total sanitation fee assessed to households would be about $373.28 for the first year. According to the contract, the fees would be adjusted each year and would not increase more than 6% yearly.

Although the city will not be able to retain seven full-time public works employees out of the 19 in the department, they will have the opportunity to work for Arrow if they choose to apply.

Businesses can also contract with Arrow to pick up recycling and solid waste three or five days a week. Commercial property owners can still contract with a vendor of their choosing.

Since September 2022, the city has been figuring out the future of the public works department and sanitation services. During a work session that month, public works employees shared their stories about working for the city and their encounters with residents and dogs on the job.

The public works department also experiences many employees calling out each month due to the strain on their bodies from doing backdoor sanitation pickup and other concerns. At one point, the department averaged about 50 callouts per month.

City Manager Patrick Bryant previously said there are about 20 working days a month, meaning there are about 2.5 callouts daily. That means about two to three workers are pulled from the greenspace crew daily 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 have increased 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 develop a long-term approach to sanitation services. Bryant presented the contract with Arrow at the Jan. 24 work session. Beginning in May, the company will begin collecting solid waste and recycling once a week for residents.

The contract with Arrow is for five years and will end in May 2029. It will automatically renew each year during those five years unless the city or Arrow gives written notice that they want to terminate it.

Commissioner Lionel Laratte had suggested that the contract be three years instead of five years and had some concerns about ensuring that there is a way to measure customer satisfaction.

Laratte added that he balanced his concerns about people and finances when deciding on the contract.

“The reason I want to make a comment is because this is one of the tougher decisions that I’ve made since being a part of the board. The reason is it’s pitting a couple of things important to with each other,” Laratte said. “In this case, as difficult as it was for me to make this decision, I do believe the financials are what are better for the city. It’s a financially sound plan.”

Change can be hard, but this change can also be healthy for the city, Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Shortell said.

“The fact is, we cannot do sanitation pick up as economically as a private company. I’m happy we’ll be saving residents some money,” Shortell said. “I’m even more excited about the possibility of our public works department having time to attend to other projects and needs that they may not have been able to get to in the past.”

The sanitation fee for the city was $596 per household annually, which still does not cover the total cost of the sanitation program. If the public works department continued solid waste collection, the city must replace its three garbage trucks. Revenue from the current sanitation fee would not be enough to cover that capital cost, and the sanitation fee would have increased to $710 per household annually.

A few residents at recent meetings expressed that they didn’t mind paying more if all the public works employees would keep their jobs with the city.

“I’ll echo that $200-$300 for a lot of households is a lot of money,” Commissioner Mike Smith said. “Another thing to remember is that’s just for year one. Costs that would be borne over time would most likely become more significant with vehicle replacement or other unforeseen costs.”

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