Oktibbeha County leadership is trying to determine if it would retain any equipment from Golden Triangle Waste Services, as supervisors continue to weigh a possible change in waste service providers.
During the board of supervisors’ May 21 meeting, District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery moved to start the process of changing providers. Montgomery’s motion drew a second from District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller.
However, supervisors tabled the matter when Board Attorney Rob Roberson asked supervisors to let him look at contracts with GTWS, including the service’s original charter, to determine if the county can retain any of the equipment it’s paid for.
Roberson told The Dispatch after the meeting he felt there should be some mechanism for the county to keep some of equipment or interest from GTWS. The county is currently a one-third owner of the organization, in partnership with Lowndes and Webster counties.
“I think there should be some way of recouping some of this,” Roberson said. “Now that being said, I don’t know. Until I look at all this — I wasn’t quite ready for us to do what we were doing, but I understand where they were coming from. They’re ready for this to be dealt with and done.”
However, Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders, who sits on the GTWS board, said Oktibbeha County won’t get anything.
“There’s no equipment that belongs to Oktibbeha County,” Sanders said. “All their trucks, garbage canisters, everything belongs to Golden Triangle. The only way that would be split up would be if the Golden Triangle Waste Service were to dissolve.”
Each county has two supervisors serving on the GTWS board. Oktibbeha County’s board members include supervisors Marvell Howard and Joe Williams, who represent districts 1 and 3, respectively.
Oktibbeha County pays GTWS $62,000 per month.
The ongoing discussions about Oktibbeha County’s waste service has highlighted tensions between the county and GTWS.
At the last meeting, Montgomery and Miller supported hiring Arrow Disposal Services, Inc. — which submitted the lowest bid of three private companies that responded to Oktibbeha County’s request for proposals.
Should the county change services, supervisors hope to have a new contract ready to begin with the Oct. 1 start of Fiscal Year 2018-19, which is a natural breaking point for its current contract with GTWS.
Montgomery said he’s ready to move to a new service and has been for some time. He said he feels the county can get better service through a private provider than with GTWS.
“I thought we’d get good service to our county residents at minimal increase or cost,” he said. “That’s where I was, because I’ve seen some shortages. That’s just what it is. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Miller, likewise, said she’s ready to move on. She contended that GTWS isn’t maintaining its contractual obligations to the county, which includes delivering new garbage cans to customers — a task supervisors have taken upon themselves.
Sanders, however, argued the decision to move is fueled by personality conflicts between some supervisors — particularly Miller and Montgomery — and GTWS General Manager Betty Farmer.
He pointed to the absence of Montgomery — who has since given up his seat on the GTWS board for Howard — and Williams as creating difficulties in communicating with Oktibbeha County about its problems.
Sanders also said Miller’s issues, in particular, arise from personality clashes with Farmer — particularly an instance where he said Miller wanted to obtain garbage cans from GTWS and Farmer didn’t allow it.
“Bricklee hasn’t ever been to a board meeting and hasn’t got a clue about what’s going on,” Sanders said. “She’s opposed to it because Betty wouldn’t let (Miller) come get garbage cans. Next thing you know, she’s mad.”
Miller said she’s not making her decision to move ahead based on issues with Farmer.
“Supervisor Sanders is certainly entitled to his opinions, but I don’t make decisions based on personal issues,” Miller said. “I make decisions based on what’s best for the taxpayer. This comes down to the fact that Golden Triangle Waste has not been following with what their contractual obligations are.
“Mr. Sanders is misinformed,” she added. “For him to make these personal comments is very unprofessional of him.”
Montgomery acknowledged there have been personality problems with Farmer. However, he also said his decision isn’t based on that.
“I’m just looking at the county and what its residents get in return,” he said.
‘It gets rid of a lot of damn headaches’
While Oktibbeha County withdrawing would be less than ideal, Sanders said he feels GTWS will survive just fine without it.
“What it does to Golden Triangle Waste Service is it gets rid of a lot of damn headaches and a lot of problems,” Sanders said. “We can do just fine without them and just as good with them. It’s their call and they can do whatever they want to do.”
However, he does question whether private companies could, long-term, compete with the service GTWS provides.
In Oktibbeha County, Arrow’s bid includes $9.50 monthly per residence for garbage pickup and $1 per residence for a drop-off recycling location, according to County Administrator Emily Garrard.
Waste Management also bid, at $13.64 per month for residential garbage pickup and a $250 charge per haul for recycling. That cost would be billed to the county, and dispersed among residents.
WastePro bid $12.98 per month for residential pickup. The company would also charge $440 per month to Oktibbeha County, which includes one haul per week to a recycling location. Additional hauls would cost the county $110 each.
GTWS currently charges $8.12 for residential pickup. It does not currently offer recycling services.
GTWS serves Lowndes, Webster and Oktibbeha counties. It also serves the cities of Columbus, Eupora and Mathiston and Columbus Air Force Base.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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