After going more than three weeks without a garbage pickup despite repeated calls to city officials and staff, south Augusta resident Beaurine Wilkinson said she resorted to hiring someone else to carry it away.
“After the Fourth of July, I had so much trash, I had to pay somebody to take a load to the dump,” said Wilkinson, a retired Richmond County Board of Education employee who qualifies for assisted trash collection because of an illness.
Wilkinson is one of thousands who have contacted Augusta 311 or their commissioner about collection issues since the city went to weekly garbage and recycling pickup June 3.
She said her prior hauler never had a problem with driving up her 600-foot driveway to gather her trash, but her new hauler does.
“They said their trucks couldn’t come up and get my trash,” Wilkinson said.
Once she finally got a pickup, she said she was disappointed to learn yard and bulk waste weren’t included in the assisted collection program.
“The intent of assisted collection is for trash and recycling only,” Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson said. “The contract is designed around that right of way.”
Augusta Commission memember Marion Williams, who invited Wilkinson to speak to the commission Monday, said he was “really disappointed” the new waste contract didn’t address the needs of people like her.
“Your job is to consider every taxpayer in Richmond County,” he told Johnson.
Augusta Disposal founder Bill Polonus told commissioners Monday that his company had to lay off 14 employees since losing business under the new contract. He asked commissioners to allow him to supplement the weekly pickups with a second day of service and waive landfill tipping fees
Johnson said that wasn’t possible under the new contract.
“We gave our current contractors the exclusive right to pick up that waste,” he said.
The contract could be amended, but it would require renegotiating with haulers Advanced Disposal and Inland Services Corp., general counsel Andrew MacKenzie said.
“We just want to go out and get the garbage people call us about,” Polonus said.
Commissioner Alvin Mason said the new service simply doesn’t work for all neighborhoods.
“We can’t continue to pretend or mask that there is an issue with trash,” he said.
Commissioner Joe Jackson said his family of five, which recycles, has had no trouble with the weekly pickups, but many households – particularly those with in-home businesses such as daycares – might need a second collection each week.
Licensed businesses do have the option to pay for commercial service or hire a private hauler, according to Johnson.