Originally created 11/22/05

Augusta's trash clash solved



An impasse between one of Augusta's prime garbage haulers and its subcontractors ended Monday when the prime contractor agreed to pay the subcontractors more money.

Prime contractor Advanced Disposal, which serves between 27,000 and 30,000 of Augusta's 58,000 garbage customers, agreed to pay its subcontractors $12.30 per customer unit per month, ending the dispute after about three hours of negotiations between company officials and the subcontractors. The dispute had jeopardized trash pickup after Jan. 1, when new contracts go into effect.

Advanced had proposed paying the subcontractors $10.78 per unit per month under the new contract. Company officials said they could not afford to go higher because Advanced must pay a $100,000 performance bond, buy $1.5 million in capital assets in order to comply with the city's requirement that the average age of trucks not exceed five years, and pay supervisory and customer-service expenses.

Subcontractors, such as J.B. Brown, the owner of Metropolitan Waste, said the subcontractors could not satisfy requirements for new equipment and stay in business on the amount initially offered by Advanced.

Andy Cheek, the Augusta Commission's Engineering Services Committee chairman, who called the emergency meeting between Advanced Disposal and the subcontractors, said he had doubts the dispute would be resolved Monday.

"We were in the eleventh hour and about to have a big problem," he said. "Thank God it worked out."

Subcontractor Berry Smith also attributed the settlement to divine intervention and said the trucks would be "rolling pretty good" come January.

Still to be resolved are issues related to the way the city will charge for the service next year.

Currently, residents pay for the service two ways, depending on where they live. Residents of the urban services tax district pay for garbage as part of their property tax. In the county tax district, residents pay a yearly fee of $196 - set to increase to $276 next year.

However, many residents in the old city pay little or no property tax. That will change under the new plan, when the millage that pays for garbage pickup in the urban district is reduced and the fee system is implemented.

Some commissioners, who did not realize the impact of the change when they voted for it, have balked because of complaints from constituents who say they cannot afford the fee.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.