Augusta households are days away from a significant shift in their household routines, and many residents remain displeased.
“I’ve been dealing with this garbage thing all week,” said Augusta Commission member Wayne Guilfoyle, whose District 8 for the first time is experiencing mandatory curbside garbage collection at 8,000 households.
Guilfoyle, whose district is mainly rural and includes many small farms, said residents resent being forced to pay for new city garbage pickup, although the city limits of tiny Hephzibah and Blythe were spared.
Longtime small haulers in the area will retain service contracts in the two towns, Guilfoyle said.
“That’ll probably make the residents feel good,” he said.
Elsewhere, much of the county seems peeved about a reduction in service from two days a week to one and a change in service days. Residents have called the city’s new expanded 311 customer service line with questions about service days.
Gearing up for a busy period that begins Monday, Augusta Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson lamented: “Change is hard.”
“We’re changing a lot,” Johnson said. “For the most part, we’re changing everybody’s service day. And we’ve changed our method of collection, which is a significant change. When you put all of those changes together, there’s a lot of people that are adapting with us and working hard.”
Friday marked the end of 13 years of twice-weekly pickup in most of Augusta. Service – including garbage, yard waste, bulk waste and recycling – will be one day a week.
The garbage trucks themselves will change, too. Under Augusta’s new solid-waste contract, all are required to operate on compressed natural gas, and the city recently opened a CNG fueling station where they must gas up.
Besides the service day change, the city will ease into other service changes, with a focus first on those with heavier service needs, such as large households requiring a second cart or lacking a recycling container. After that, customers seeking to change to a smaller, cheaper cart will be addressed.
“We’re dealing with the ones who need extra carts first,” he said.
In conjunction with the plan’s efforts to increase recycling, the city is offering a service called “Recycling Perks,” which registers points for a customer every time a recycling bin is emptied. The points, accessible online, add up to discounts, promotions and other benefits at local businesses, he said.
Several commissioners said they hope the waste contract can be tweaked further. Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said he’s optimistic that several small waste haulers left out of the city’s collection contract get another shot at the subcontract work.
At least one of the small haulers might have a shot at a new downtown receptacle collection contract the city split off from the large waste contract, Johnson said.
Guilfoyle has further tweaks he’d like to see address the needs of his rural area. He wants to shorten the maximum setback for mandatory collection from 300 feet to 200 feet from the road and cut a rule that exempt residents show proof of alternate service.
He wants an exemption for farms of 10 acres or more with proven agricultural uses that are required to use curbside residential pickup, even for farm waste.
“That’s the reason that one size doesn’t fit all,” he said.