STARKVILLE — The city”s investigation into why a Sanitation Department truck dumped curbside recycling materials Thursday morning at the Golden Triangle Regional Landfill revealed the incident stemmed from a misunderstanding by the driver.
But Starkville Recycling owner Stan Shurden, who was supposed to receive the materials for sorting, processing and sale, was skeptical of the city”s findings Friday afternoon.
Starkville Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill spent Friday interviewing all Sanitation Department employees who were working residential trucks on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Spruill discovered the driver”s mix-up over where to dump the recycling materials was a result of confusion over whether the city still had a contract with Starkville Recycling. The two sides were in a contract dispute, and Shurden last month gave the city a 60-day notice of termination for his services.
The contract between Starkville Recycling and the city doesn”t expire until mid-November, but the driver of Sanitation Department Truck 33 had been on medical leave, heard about the contract termination notice and mistakenly thought he no longer was supposed to unload the curbside recycling materials at Starkville Recycling, Spruill wrote in her report.
Truck 33 worked its normal garbage pickup route Tuesday and encountered problems which required repair, Spruill said. The driver of the truck dumped the residential garbage Tuesday at Golden Triangle Regional Landfill and then went to Terry”s Garage in West Point for repair.
The truck was repaired sufficiently to return to Starkville and operated Wednesday for the curbside recycling pickup while it was waiting on a part to arrive at the repair shop in West Point, Spruill said. After the recycling pickup Wednesday, the truck was weighed at Southwire and driven to West Point to be repaired, although the driver did not first drop off the materials at Starkville Recycling, Spruill said.
The truck was repaired in West Point and went there and back Wednesday with the load of recycling materials in the hold. Truck 33 then ran its regular route on Thursday to pick up household trash and dumped the load, which still contained the green curbside recycling bags, at Golden Triangle Regional Landfill.
“There is no evidence that indicates that more than one truck had a mixed load of garbage that included recycling materials,” Spruill said. “To the contrary, it appears that there was only one load of recycling that was dumped and that is clearly shown in the pictures provided by Mr. Shurden.”
Shurden followed the Sanitation Department truck Thursday after it failed to unload its recycling materials at Starkville Recycling. He took photos of the truck dumping the load of garbage and recycling bags and presented them to the city”s Recycling Committee Thursday night.
Spruill on Friday also interviewed Shurden, who re-emphasized his concerns about the six-month decline in recycling materials brought to Starkville Recycling by Sanitation Department trucks. He believes Sanitation Department trucks are not bringing all of the materials collected during the curbside pickup program to Starkville Recycling.
Although Shurden only has proof of one truck dumping recycling materials at the landfill, he believes a second one also dumped curbside pickup items there or did something else with the load this week. Three Sanitation Department trucks and their loads of curbside recycling were weighed Wednesday at Southwire, but only one truck dropped items off at Starkville Recycling, Shurden said.
“There were two trucks that did this (Thursday), but I only have pictures of one,” he said. “I wasn”t able to go in and watch the other truck dump.”
Mayor Parker Wiseman and Spruill, however, contend the dump was an “isolated incident.”
“I do not believe that there was any deliberate attempt to circumvent the city”s agreement with Starkville Recycling, but rather a confluence of events that created some confusion leading to the mixing of materials that then could not be disposed of other than to take the materials to the Golden Triangle Regional Landfill,” Spruill said.
But Shurden is skeptical of the city”s findings.
“This is not an isolated incident,” he said. “It has been going on for quite a while.”
“If this were an isolated incident, how would I have known about it and what to do?” he added.
In her report, Spruill said she talked to Jimmy Sloan, executive director of the Golden Triangle Regional Authority, who indicated he was not aware of any previous issues with the city of Starkville dumping recycling materials at the landfill, but he did say that it was not something he or his staff affirmatively looked for at any given time. In a subsequent conversation, Sloan stated that he asked the heavy equipment operator at the landfill about the matter and he stated that he occasionally saw green bags come to the landfill, but that it was not a regular occurrence, Spruill said.
Contacted Friday afternoon, Sloan confirmed he had not researched the matter thoroughly and said he works on the administrative level, so he wouldn”t see green recycling bags if they did get dumped in the landfill.
“I”m not down there, so I wouldn”t see them,” Sloan said. “I can”t say if they are (being dumped here) or not.”