Augusta leaders push for landfill audit

Augusta equipment and personnel turned up in this remote Lincoln County area in March. File/Staff

A few Augusta Commission members say the city Environmental Services Department is due for an audit.

 

The department saw the resignation last month of Director Mark Johnson amid an investigation into misuse of landfill and other government equipment at a private site in Lincoln County.

One commissioner, Sean Frantom, is calling for all city employees to sign a statement acknowledging they know city rules about using government equipment without permission.

But several others, led by Commissioner Ben Hasan, say an audit is the best way to find out what’s happening at the landfill.

An audit would enable the commission to get a handle on landfill finances, contracts and equipment, Hasan said.

“Mark had made a couple of presentations that said we need additional fees to continue to operate at capacity,” he said.

In addition, the department recently took on a demolition program. “Can we maintain that?” Hasan said.

Commissioners Dennis Williams and Andrew Jefferson said an audit would help the department’s next director.

“Since the director is gone and somebody new has to come in, this would make us aware of what’s going on,” Williams said.

“Any time you have a change at the top, it’s good to audit so the new person will know exactly where they are when they begin,” Jefferson said.

Commissioner Marion Williams said he wants an audit, but doesn’t expect the commission to approve one.

“This is about handling your business and holding people accountable, and they don’t want that,” Marion Williams said.

Frantom disagreed with the audit, saying the city’s annual financial audit includes a look at Environmental Services finances, and that a “fixed asset audit” is already under way.

Until now, the city fleet management division has kept records on most equipment and vehicles included in a service contract, but not all equipment, such as the excavating machine seized by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office that was lent to the landfill before winding up in Lincoln County.

City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson said her investigation into the incident was “near a close” and that she will present findings and recommendations to the commission at a later date.

Jackson and Deputy Environmental Services Director Lori Videtto are proposing a change to Augusta’s 2013 solid waste collection contract for yard waste, in a related item, at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

Changes in Georgia Environmental Protection Division rules now allow yard waste to go in with bulky waste to landfills with gas collection systems, rather than to separate inert areas, the agenda item states.

The recommendation would permit customers to mix bulky and yard waste at the curb and haulers to use a single truck to collect both.

Marion Williams is questioning another Environmental Services item, the price haulers and waste hauling subcontractors pay for the compressed natural gas they’re required to buy from the city-owned CNG pump.

Williams’ agenda item says haulers and sub-haulers are required to pay $4.10 a gallon versus the $1.50 billed private customers.

Williams and Mayor Hardie Davis have three agenda requests related to soul singer James Brown, including locating a permanent display of Brown memorabilia inside the gate at Augusta Regional Airport, designating the corridor between Eighth Street and James Brown Boulevard between Laney Walker Boulevard and Reynolds Street as the James Brown Heritage Trail and amending Phase 2 of the James Brown Boulevard streetscape project from Broad Street to Laney-Walker to include painted record images of Brown’s greatest hits.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

 

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