Augusta commission members voted 6-3-1 to adopt the “concept” of weekly pickup, with a graduated rate based on the amount of trash produced and new incentives to encourage recycling, which will continue to be collected once a week. The changes go into effect in January.
Commissioners Alvin Mason, Bill Lockett and Wayne Guilfoyle voted against the move. Commissioner J.R. Hatney abstained from voting.
Mason and Hatney said the change was equal to halving the city service without a commensurate reduction in price. Mason questioned whether residents who don’t recycle now will begin to do so because their trash can is emptied just once a week.
Guilfoyle said residents of his mostly rural District 8 already resent the compulsory waste collection imposed on them after consolidation so he could not support the change.
Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson said if the city continues semi-weekly pickup, it will be forced to pass along an increase in cost to residential customers.
According to a chart Johnson showed the commission, residential rates will remain $26.75 a month, approximately what they are now, under the 2013 solid waste collection contract being finalized based on the Tuesday commission decision.
The chart showed an “extra cart fee” of $10.70 for households seeking a second 95-gallon waste container, and a small cart fee of $20.07 for households who produce less garbage.
Lockett asked why the city wasn’t making more money on recycled materials. Johnson said the city presently sells methane produced by waste at the landfill to a local manufacturer, and is seeking proposals for a new sorting program to implement there.
The vote means Augusta will contract with two waste haulers, Inland Service Corp. and Advanced Disposal, to collect the waste and recycling. The haulers have agreed to work with existing subcontractors, although those details have not been finalized, Johnson said.
Included in a 2013 waste collection contract Johnson gave commissioners to review Tuesday also is the requirement that trash trucks run on compressed natural gas, or CNG. That move is expected to help Augusta’s borderline containment status, based on air pollution levels, with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Among several executives of environmental services companies who attended Tuesday’s meeting were two from American Fueling Systems, a company that builds CNG filling stations. Company CEO Rahim Charania cheered the commission vote, saying “the city of Augusta is leading the state of Georgia” in its efforts to create environmentally sustainable and cost-efficient infrastructure.
In other business Tuesday, the commission approved 8-2 a motion to impose a flat monthly water rate of $275 at Forest Hills Golf Course and First Tee of Augusta for six months until the city constructs lines to carry raw water to the golf courses.
The $275 rate is what the city charges The Patch in Augusta for water at the city-owned golf course. A large disparity between what First Tee, a program that teaches golf to inner-city youth, and nearby Forest Hills Golf Course, a University System of Georgia-owned course, pay for water, prompted the change.
Once the infrastructure is constructed, the city will establish a new untreated water rate for recipients based on the price of the new lines, Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier said.
An earlier motion to grant First Tee a reduced temporary rate of $125 due to its smaller size failed 5-5. Mayor Deke Copenhaver was not present to cast a tiebreaking vote.