The business of trash pickup has been messy for local politicians charged with awarding solid-waste collection contracts for the city this year.
Complaints from constituents and trash haulers have littered the bidding process: Some Richmond County residents slated to receive city service have said they'd rather stick with their private hauler; several haulers have taken issue with prices quoted by the low bidder.
Despite scattered dissension, Richmond County residents have expressed widespread support for affordable trash collection in their communities, and delays at the commission level are delaying the entire process. The issue, and possibly a vote to award the contract, will go before commissioners again today, after being deferred from an April 17 meeting.
"They seem to have over-politicized this whole thing, even though overwhelmingly the residents of Richmond County want the contract," said Kester Uzochukwu, the owner of CSRA Waste, the company that has been identified as the low bidder for 70 percent of the city's hauling.
Questionnaires and public hearings on garbage collection show about 80 percent of residents want the city to provide garbage service. The city's current garbage service serves only the urban district, or former city, which has about 16,000 existing customers, the Department of Public Works and Engineering reports.
The proposed solid-waste contract would extend service south of Gordon Highway to about 23,000 new customers. Monthly costs would range from $14.50 for the Willis Foreman Road area to $17.13 for the Washington Road area.
Some areas, including most of south Augusta and the part of the city west of Bobby Jones Expressway still would not have city-run trash service.
At today's commission meeting, officials will review a variety of information concerning bidders for the contract, including haulers' payment records at the Deans Bridge Road Landfill, a background check to make sure potential haulers are licensed by the state and the names of subcontractors who would work under prospective low bidders.
"We're giving them all the information they need to make an informed decision on awarding the contract," said Drew Goins, assistant director for the city's public works department.
The most recent political snag to hit the bid process came from an accounts receivable report for the landfill, which was requested by Mayor Bob Young and released Friday.
It appeared that most of the bidders, including BFI, CSRA Waste and Augusta Disposal and Recycling, owed money in back landfill fees. Mr. Young said the city shouldn't do business with people who owe it money.
But it was later revealed that those debts - recorded under the names of private haulers - were actually owed by the city. Landfill fees for city garbage collection contractors are paid about once a quarter from the city's property tax account, so they often appear delinquent on accounting records, said Teresa Smith, the director of public works.
Mr. Young said he has requested information on the hauling companies as a precaution, to make sure a low bidder is capable of carrying out the contract.
"I fully support the expansion of our trash pickup areas, and I support the private sector doing the collection," he said. "I just want to make sure whoever gets the business gets the trash picked up. Because if it's not, you know whose office the people are going to call."
Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.