MARY ANN ANDERSON
More than half of last Thursday night’s nearly hourlong regularly-scheduled monthly meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council was spent listening to and discussing garbage collection contracts with James Lanier of Ryland Engineering.
The Council, minus Ward 4’s John Bloodworth who was out for medical reasons and City Attorney Ken Smith, intently listened as Lanier kicked off the talks by saying that his company, whose headquarters are in Dublin and who provides garbage collection services for the City, has been “caught in the middle between some power plays.”
The City and Jeff Davis County jointly have a contract with Republic Services, who runs the transfer station where the City takes its waste. As per another contract between the City and Ryland signed almost two years ago, Ryland was to use that transfer station for its waste disposal. But because of issues with the transfer station, the service never began.
The issue, Lanier said, was that Republic wanted to raise the rate it would charge to Ryland from about $32 a ton, the amount the City had contracted with Republic, to what Lanier termed an “exorbitant amount” of $59 a ton. Ryland said no to that and was turned away from the transfer station. That’s when Ryland chose not to pick up the trash in Hazlehurst until the legalities of the contract were worked out. In the two years since, that hasn’t happened.
In addressing the council, Lanier said Ryland’s contract with the City would have given it the right to take the waste to another landfill or transfer station should the contractor refuse entry or to raise the rates to the City, but, he pointed out, he was asked not to do that by then-Ward 3 Councilman Eric Griffin and by then-Public Works Supervisor Carl Leggett because it would get the City into litigation. Since then, he said, legal costs for Ryland have run into thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees to get the matter worked out between his company and the City, adding that there is an “issue with the wording with the operator of the transfer station,” and that’s where the “rub” lies.
Lanier also said that Ryland “intended to live up” to the contractual agreements the City has with Republic should trash pickup begin and take its waste to the transfer station.
“I just want to reiterate that Ryland Environmental is a growing company,” he said. “We’re the biggest threat to big companies because we have excellent customer service, we have financial stability that will allow us to do the contracts that we need to do, and we have the ability to hire good quality individuals … Our first priority is customer service.”
Currently Ryland takes waste other than household trash to the transfer station and is being billed at the contracted rate of $32 a ton.
But, Lanier added, “We need to get something resolved on this,” referring to household pickup and that he wants to “move forward.”
“We’re willing to sit down and talk about anything to get this resolved,” Lanier stated, “But as of today I’ve not been approached, called or even emailed from anybody at the other company [Republic] to offer a solution.”
Stone offered that he thought the contract between the City and Republic for services at the transfer station was a “good” one, but Lanier pointed out that he was not privy to it until after the Ryland contract with the City had been signed.
Stone was frustrated that almost two years have passed since Ryland signed the contract but essentially nothing happened with trash pickup since then because, in effect, the agreement had stopped. He added, “I want to make sure that the public knows that the council didn’t stop this contract. We had nothing to do with it. It was circumstances and legalities of the person who owns the contract on that transfer station.”
Lanier noted that Ryland, by the terms of his contract, could easily have taken the waste to another transfer station when they were turned away from Republic’s. But that didn’t happen because, as Lanier pointed out, Ryland is “trying to be a good partner with the City of Hazlehurst and trying not to get into litigation.”
That’s when Stone stated that attorneys for both sides would “work this out,” with his summing up the half-hour discussion by saying, “I don’t give a durn who picks it up, as long as the garbage is picked up, and it’s good for the City of Hazlehurst.”
In other action, the council ….
…. after hearing lengthy discussions in both Monday night’s work session and the Thursday meeting, approved Andrew Peiken, C.E., as the engineer for the watershed protection plan for environmental control and testing of the City’s water system.
…. agreed to authorize Stone to rewrite the wording and conditions for requisition agreements to make purchasing, in Stone’s words, “more streamlined” and “to keep the office in order.”
…. took no action discussing a business license application for an unnamed local retail business.
…. approved a request by the Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Chamber of Commerce and Joint Development Authority to contribute $2,000 toward the expenses for the Spring Fling Family Fun Day on March 28 hosted by the Census Complete Count Committee.
…. agreed for travel or training for City Clerk Vernice Thompson to attend the District Clerk’s Workshop Retreat at Lake Blackshear from March 5-6; Police Chief Ken Williams to attend Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police annual Chiefs Day at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on March 10; and for the Police Department’s Melissa Luke to attend a stress management course at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth from March 23-24.
…. approved January’s water and sewer adjustments, departmental reports and check register for bills previously paid.
…. during Citizens Comments, agreed to a request by Fire Chief Charles Wasdin to apply for a grant from FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program for $197,000 with local participation of $9,100.
…. in the Mayor and Council’s Comments section and in continuing a Monday night workshop agenda item on the same matter, discussed with Steve Faught of the Hazlehurst Animal Shelter the need to have Smith rework the application process for volunteers at the shelter. Also in this section, heard an update from Stone on the progress of construction at the Georgia State Patrol station, with his saying, “When we cut that ribbon, you’re going to be proud of what you have in your community. It’s going to be nice inside and out.” And finally in this section, heard from Ward 3 Councilwoman Diane Leggett, who said that the residents in the south side of Hazlehurst are “drowning” because of recent rains, with the mayor agreeing that the area is “soaked” and in the “biggest mess,” but until the rains subside, there isn’t a “blooming thing” the City can do.